|Georgia says no to Russia's terms for better ties|
|March 05, 2012|
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Saturday he could not accept the terms of Russia's offer for the two sides to restore diplomatic relations for the first time since their 2008 war.
Russia on Friday made the surprise proposal despite Tbilisi's fury over Moscow's recognition of two rebel Georgian regions as independent states in the wake of the five-day conflict.
Saakashvili said he was ready for dialogue with Moscow but stressed that Russia still needed to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as a part of Georgia.
"Our diplomatic relations with Russia were broken automatically once it stopped recognising our sovereignty," the fiercly pro-Western Saakashvili told reporters.
"And they will be automatically restored once Russia again recognises Georgia and its sovereign borders."
Russia's offer came days after Saakashvili offered visa-free travel to Russians in a bid to help improve his poor ex-Soviet nation's economic performance.
Moscow said it would also remove the visa requirement for Georgians should Tbilisi be able to ensure "the safety of Russians visiting Georgia."
The two sides' relations soured dramatically with Saakashvili's rise to power in 2004 and immediate decision to seek membership in both NATO and the European Union.
Moscow initially severed transport and postal links with Georgia in 2006 following the arrest of four Russian military officers on spying charges.
It banned the import of Georgian wine and mineral water because of alleged health risks that same year.
The August 2008 war broke amid soaring tensions and small skirmishes in the region of South Ossetia.
© AFP 2011. All rights reserved.
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