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5 Mar, 2009 22:03

Russia resumes visa service to Georgians

Russia has restarted issuing visas to Georgian citizens after a halt of more than half a year following last August’s conflict in South Ossetia.

Issuing visas has been resumed following weeks of intensive negotiations.

Russian visa departments have opened in the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi and its Georgian counterpart in Moscow.

Switzerland stepped in as a mediator after Russia and Georgia had asked for its assistance.

“Switzerland as a neutral country has never interfered in any conflict,” said Lorenzo Amberg, Switzerland’s ambassador to Georgia. “Instead, it helped sides to find common ground and restore their relations to a certain level.”

Russia stopped issuing visas to Georgian citizens in September, 2008, when Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with the country.

Tbilisi cited Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and also its actions during the conflict in South Ossetia as the main reasons for the move.

Georgian Foreign Ministry official Kaha Chitaya said that Russian visas will be issued on a limited basis.

They will only be given to those Georgian citizens who have relatives in Russia and those who are eligible for a humanitarian visa for going to Russia on a cultural, humanitarian or charitable mission.

He pointed that despite all odds, Georgia did not stop issuing visas to Russian citizens, who have been receiving visas when arriving on Georgian territory.