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Saakashvili: Georgia ready for talks with Russia
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Georgia hopes to establish good relations with Russia on the basis of respect for Georgia's territorial integrity, President Mikhail Saakashvili said Friday.

"We welcome any diplomatic talks and are ready for any dialogue that respects the territorial integrity of Georgia and takes the interests of all its citizens into consideration," Saakashvili told a meeting with small business representatives, which was broadcast on local television channels.

The Georgian president also lauded the efforts of Georgia's Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Ilia II to normalize Georgia- Russia relations.

Iliya II, who visited Moscow to attend the funeral of the Russia's Orthodox Church leader Patriarch Alexy II, met with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Tuesday night.

Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said Friday after a meeting with Ilia II that the Caucasus country may resume inter- governmental dialogue with Russia.

"Russia must know that Georgia can be a good partner and a well- wishing neighbor, but Russia will have to observe Georgia's territorial integrity within the internationally recognized borders and to respect Georgian sovereignty and independence," Vashadze was quoted by Itar-Tass news agency as saying.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic now seeking NATO membership along with Ukraine, has long accused Moscow of supporting its breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Bilateral ties were further strained due to the five-day war between the two countries in August, when Tbilisi launched attacks to reclaim its breakaway region of South Ossetia but was defeated by Russian troops.

Moscow then recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Aug. 26. In response, Georgia formally cut diplomatic ties with Russia on Sept. 2.

(Xinhua News Agency December 13, 2008)

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