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Russian Envoy Urges Measures by Georgia to Mend Ties
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Russia's ambassador to Georgia called on the Caucasus nation on Wednesday to take measures to improve its relations with Moscow, which nose-dived after Georgia briefly detained four Russian officers on spying charges late last year.

Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko, recalled amid the spying row, returned to Tbilisi last week.

"Relations between our countries should be based on mutual respect and fair play. Russia is pursuing exactly this line in its relations with Georgia," Kovalenko said according to the Interfax news agency after presenting his credentials to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili.

What is needed is reciprocal or, better still, "initiative steps on Tbilisi's part," Kovalenko said. "This is not the case so far."

Saakashvili said receiving Kovalenko's credentials that Georgia "will become a reliable friend and partner of Russia, and not only in bilateral relations but in the world arena and in issues of regional security," Interfax reported.

"It is difficult to overestimate the importance of relations with Russia for Georgia. These relations are based on the traditional historic sympathies of our peoples," he said.

"We hope that as we move to cancel all restrictions introduced by Russia regarding Georgia, we can begin relations with Russia with a clean slate," he said.

Moscow cut transport and postal links and stopped issuing entry vis as to Georgians following the arrest of the Russian officers in late September.

Ties between Moscow and Tbilisi have been strained by tensions over Georgia's breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and the country's bid to join NATO since Saakashvili came to power in 2003.

(Xinhua News Agency February 1, 2007)

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