(RIA Novosti) - The Russian ambassador to Georgia, who was recalled in September 2006 amid a furious diplomatic row between the ex-Soviet neighbors, returned to Tbilisi Tuesday to resume his post, a Russian Embassy officer in Georgia said.
The brief arrest of four Russian Army officers on spying charges in Georgia last September aggravated the already strained relations between the former Soviet allies. Russia responded by suspending travel and mail links with the small Caucasus nation, clamped down on Georgians working in the country and recalled the ambassador and embassy staff with their families, reports Trend.
Vyacheslav Kovalenko, who arrived in the Armenian capital, Yerevan, by plane Monday evening, was escorted to Tbilisi, where he is scheduled to present his credentials to President Mikheil Saakashvili, Ivan Volynkin said.
Ironically, the ambassador was obliged to complete the final leg of his trip by land from Yerevan because air links between Georgia and Russia have yet to be restored.
Georgia's Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili highlighted the event as an important step toward normalizing bilateral relations, and said he will hold a meeting with Kovalenko on his return from a scheduled trip to Italy.
President Vladimir Putin met with Kovalenko last week and said the latter "heads for a country that can claim not only special relations but good-neighborliness and friendship with Russia."
"Unfortunately, we have recently encountered well-known problems [in bilateral relations]," Putin said, adding that last September he met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and agreed on a number of steps to normalize relations.
"The first major step was taken in December of last year, when we signed an agreement on Russian natural gas deliveries to Georgia," Putin said. "It is important that the deliveries will be made following market principles."
Russian natural gas monopoly Gazprom signed three contracts December 22, 2006 for the delivery of 1.1 billion cubic meters of gas to Georgia in 2007, at $235 per 1,000 cubic meters.