|Georgia, Russia resume air, sea links|
|March 25, 2008|
March 25, 2008
Moscow imposed a transportation and postal blockade on the Caucasus state in October 2006 in apparent retaliation for the detention on espionage charges of four Russian army officers. Russian officials cited commercial reasons, but Tbilisi called the move politically motivated.
Flights will be resumed in line with a bilateral agreement in late February on the repayment of Tbilisi's $3.7 million debt to Russia's air traffic regulator.
On March 10, Georgia's largest air carrier, Airzena Georgian Airways, paid $2 million as part repayment of the debt to Russia's State Air Traffic Management Corporation (Rosaeronavigatsia). The remainder of the debt will be repaid in stages by several Georgian air carriers before the end of the year.
An Airzena flight will leave Georgia for Moscow later on Tuesday.
Two Russian airlines will operate routes between Moscow and Georgia. Russia's flagship air carrier Aeroflot will fly to Georgia on March 27, and S7 Airlines (former Sibir) on March 30.
S7 started selling tickets last Wednesday.
Georgia's economics ministry said maritime links would also be resumed this week, with a Russian passenger steamship set to travel from the Black Sea port of Sochi to Georgia's Batumi for the first time in more than a year.
A faster Kometa boat will make the return voyage from Batumi to Sochi, the ministry said.
The ministry said a train ferry linking Georgia's Poti and Russia's Kavkaz ports had continued to work throughout the dispute.
Despite the restoration of sea and air links, tensions remain high between Moscow and Tbilisi. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the Russian parliament's recent statement on the recognition of Georgia's breakaway republics was direct interference in the country's internal affairs.
Last Friday, the State Duma, Russia's lower house of parliament, proposed that the president and the government consider the issue of whether to recognize the independence of the Georgian breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
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