|Georgia sets conditions for restoring ties with Russia|
|March 05, 2012|
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Saturday responded to a Russian proposal to restore bilateral relations by saying Russia first had to recognize Georgia's borders.
Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Russia after the two fought a brief war in August 2008 in the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia. In the wake of the conflict, South Ossetia and another province, Abkhazia, announced their independence, but Georgia claims sovereignty over these regions.
In January, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said his country was ready to restore diplomatic relations with Georgia, saying it was not Moscow who cut the ties.
"Diplomatic relations will be restored with Russia automatically as soon as it recognizes Georgia's sovereign borders," Saakashvili said.
Georgia on Wednesday offered visa-free travel to Russian citizens and in reciprocation, the Russian foreign ministry late on Friday offered restoration of bilateral relations with its southern neighbor. The ministry said in a statement it was ready to reciprocate but called upon the Georgian authorities to revise their views on Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
"The Russian side has always been in favor of keeping and strengthening of humanitarian ties between our people," the statement said. "Military adventure by the Georgian leadership in August 2008 and a consequent cutting of diplomatic relations with Russia by the Georgian side have undermined these ties."
Saakashvili issued a presidential decree in June 2006 requiring Russian citizens to acquire visas before travelling to Georgia.
Georgia said the cutting of the relations had not been initiated by Georgia but was caused by Russia's activities.
Saakashvili said the Georgian side was always ready to carry out dialogue with Russia without any pre-condition but the dialogue should be aimed at regulations that would be based on an end to occupation of Georgian territory, recognition of territorial integrity of Georgia and return of internally displaced people to their homes.
"We are ready to discuss all these issues with the Russian government without any preconditions, regardless of who will win the elections (Sunday's presidential election in Russia) and who will be declared president of Russia," the Georgian president said.
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