Georgia ready for normalising ties with Russia: president

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Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday said Tbilisi was ready for talks with arch-foe Russia on normalising ties severed after the two ex-Soviet neighbours fought a bloody war in 2008.

Georgia is "fully ready to hold comprehensive talks with Russia, without any preconditions, on normalisation of relations," Saakashvili said in a televised speech at the national security council meeting.

He said normalisation should translate into return of Georgian refugees to breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and progress on "other issues related with bilateral relations, including political, economic, diplomatic and humanitarian aspects."

Saakashvili's remarks came just a few days after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Thursday said relations between Tbilisi and Moscow would "get back to normal" one day, but ruled out the possibility of dealing with Georgia's current leadership.

In an apparent reference to Medvedev's statement, Saakashvili said he was ready for talks with the Russian leadership, "which unlike the Georgian one is elected through violation of all international norms and that's observed by international organizations."

"Despite that it is the Russian leadership and we recognize it as a partner in negotiations and we want to have talks with them, provided that Georgia should be recognized as united, sovereign, independent state," he added.

Georgia and Russia fought a brief war in August 2008 over Georgia's breakaway South Ossetia region, which ended with Moscow recognising South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

Moscow and Tbilisi have not had diplomatic relations since then, with the Kremlin insisting it will not deal directly with Saakashvili.

© 2010 AFP

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