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Georgia's Saakashvili offers visa gesture to Russia

29 february 2012, 16:52
 Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. ©REUTERS
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. ©REUTERS
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Tuesday offered visa-free travel to Russians as a gesture to improve relations with Moscow but stressed he wanted Russia's troops out of his country, AFPreports.

During his annual keynote address to the Georgian parliament, pro-Western Saakashvili said that his administration was ready for peaceful ties with Russia after the two neighbours fought a war in 2008.

"We are ready to give peace an even greater chance and are making an initiative to unilaterally cancel the visa regime with Russia," Saakashvili said.

He cited the signing of a deal with Moscow in November which opened the way for Russia to join the World Trade Organisation as another Georgian gesture aimed at improving relations.

But he said that he would continue to struggle for "de-occupation" -- the withdrawal of Russian forces which have been permanently stationed in two Georgian breakaway provinces since the 2008 war.

Genuine peace would only be possible with "a Russia which recognises and complies with all internationally accepted norms of relations between sovereign states," he said.

Russia recognised Georgian rebel regions Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after the war despite criticism from the West, and says it will never again have relations with Saakashvili.

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