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Georgia, Russia agree to reopen border next spring

RIA Novosti


TBILISI, December 24 (RIA Novosti) - Moscow and Tbilisi have agreed to reopen a border checkpoint closed since July 2006, a Georgian deputy foreign minister said on Thursday.

Georgia officially opened its Kazbegi checkpoint in early September, while Russia’s Verkhny Lars checkpoint has remained closed for repairs and upgrading.

“The parties held yet another meeting with Swiss mediation [on Wednesday] …The good talks resulted in the decision to reopen [the Kazbegi-Verkhny Lars checkpoint],” Nino Kalandadze said.

Though the Georgian diplomat promised to announce the exact date of reopening as soon as the motion had been fixed in an accord, which should be signed within the next two weeks, some sources believe the event could take place in early March.

Kalandadze stressed that when reopened, the facility would not include a customs office, and advised those seeking a Georgian visa to apply to Georgia’s consulate under the usual procedure.

She said the checkpoint would also handle Georgian cargoes and vehicles.

The diplomat expressed hope that Moscow and Tbilisi would also resume direct flights, suspended after last August’s war over South Ossetia. However, she said no official bilateral talks were currently being held on the issue.

A Russian Transportation Ministry source told RIA Novosti on Tuesday that Georgian airline Airzena had proposed making 10 charter flights on December 26-30 and on January 6-10.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov demanded that Georgia give air traffic security guarantees.

“This is an unprecedented event when air service could be established with a country having no diplomatic relations with Russia,” Ivanov said.

Switzerland has represented Russia's interests in Georgia and Georgia's interests in Russia following a five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi over South Ossetia. Georgia cut diplomatic ties when Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another former Georgian republic.

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