Russia may cancel visa regime with Georgia

By Laman Sadigova

Russia is ready to restore relations and cancel visa regime with Georgia, Russian President Vladimir Putin told the annual news conference in Moscow on December 17.

Russia introduced a visa regime with Georgia in December 2000, due to the threat of intrusion into its territory of terrorists from the Pankisi Gorge (valley region in Georgia).

"We are ready to restore relations. Territorial integrity of Georgia is first of all the business of the Georgian, the south-Ossetian and Abkhazian people," the president said, noting that Russia would accept any decision Georgia would agree with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Tbilisi broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after the latter recognized the independence of Georgia’s breakaway regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali region) in August of 2008.

Georgia's former adventurist government should carry the historic blame for the country's break-up, and Russia did not initiate the degradation of Russian-Georgian relations, President Putin said.

Putin further said trade between the two countries had grown, demonstrating "a rather high pace of growth".

Later in the day, Georgia’s Prime Minister Irakly Garibashvili has called President Putin’s remarks about Russia’s readiness to lift visa requirements for Georgia as "a step in the right direction."

"Despite the divisions, including over causes and consequences of the 2008 war, between Georgia and Russia, we have managed to move ahead in resuming and enhancing cooperation in trade and transport and in the humanitarian sphere as well over the past three years," Garibashvili said.

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