Georgia's ministers set to revitalize dialogue with Moscow

(RIA Novosti) - Georgia's foreign minister and state minister for conflict resolution are expected to take further steps toward the revitalization of dialogue between Tbilisi and Moscow amid an intense diplomatic standoff between the ex-Soviet neighbors. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said Gela Bezhuashvili and Merab Antadze will arrive in Moscow Wednesday for a session of an economic alliance of Black Sea countries, to be held November 1-2, reports Trend.

The 11-member Black Sea Economic Cooperation Organization comprises Albania, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Turkey and Ukraine.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili earlier said Bezhuashvili's visit to Moscow is aimed at the resumption of full-fledged dialogue between the two countries.

Bezhuashvili is set to meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, the ministry said.

The crisis began when Georgia detained four Russian officers last month, accusing them of spying. Russia responded by suspending postal and travel links with Georgia, shutting down casinos and restaurants owned by Georgians, and deporting hundreds of Georgians allegedly living in the country illegally.

Relations between Tbilisi and Moscow have been further strained over the UN-mandated presence of Russian peacekeepers in conflict zones involving two self-proclaimed republics in Georgia - Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Antadze, who is in charge of Tbilisi's policy over its breakaway regions, is likely to discuss the issue with the Russian side.

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who swept into power on the back of a "color" revolution in 2003, pledged to bring the self-proclaimed republics back into the fold. His defense minister has also said Georgian troops will celebrate New Year's day in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

Georgia deployed massive troops in the Kodori Gorge, controlled by Abkhazia in its lower section, last summer under the guise of a police operation there. Russia said it was a provocation and demanded their withdrawal.

On October 13, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a Russian-sponsored draft resolution on Georgia, urging the ex-Soviet country to refrain from provocative actions in Abkhazia and calling for an extension of the Russian peacekeeping mission in the region until April 15, 2007.

The Georgian prime minister, speaking at the Permanent Council of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) session in Vienna Friday, accused Russia of taking 'disproportionate measures' with regard to Georgia, and said his country always spoke up for a peaceful resolution of the conflicts with its breakaway regions.

But Alexei Borodavkin, the Russian OSCE representative, said Russia's policy regarding Georgia was adequate and repeated that the South Caucasus country has been pursuing a military course to the resolution of the conflicts with the breakaway republics.

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