Georgia, Russia to hold first direct post-war talks
12/14/2012 11:11 GMT
TBILISI, Dec 14, 2012 (AFP) - Arch foes Georgia and Russia are to meet Friday in Switzerland for their first direct diplomatic talks since ties were severed after they fought a brief war in 2008, officials in Tbilisi said.
Georgia's recently-appointed special representative for Russia, Zurab Abashidze, will hold talks with Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin in Geneva, Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said.
Panjikidze said the meeting was intended to lay the ground for future talks.
"It will be a purely technical meeting at which the parties will agree on the format of future meetings," she told Georgian media.
Georgia and Russia have not had diplomatic relations since the 2008 war and the Kremlin refuses to have any dealings with President Mikheil Saakashvili.
But new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has made normalising ties with Russia a priority since his Georgian Dream coalition came to power after defeating Saakashvili's party in parliamentary elections two months ago.
Ivanishili has however vowed to maintain Saakashvili's pro-Western course and continue Georgia's bid to join NATO -- an ambition strongly opposed by Russia.
His government believes that economic ties can be restored soon but a return to full diplomatic relations will take much longer.
The relationship between the ex-Soviet neighbours is complicated by Russia's recognition of two Moscow-backed breakaway regions of Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as independent states -- a move condemned by Tbilisi as occupation.
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