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10 December, 2012 - 12:10

Georgia, Russia 'to hold first direct talks since war'

Georgia and Russia are to hold first their direct diplomatic talks since the arch-foes severed ties after the 2008 war over the separatist region of South Ossetia, Georgia's foreign minister said Monday.Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili's special representative for Russia Zurab Abashidze will meet Russian diplomats "this week in Europe," Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze told journalists, declining to specify the location."We may not expect any concrete positive outcome from this meeting, but the fact that a first meeting takes place is already positive," she added.Georgia and Russia have not had diplomatic relations since the brief 2008 war and the Kremlin refuses to have any dealings with President Mikheil Saakashvili.Ivanishvili made normalising ties with Russia his foreign policy priority after his Georgian Dream coalition defeated Saakashvili's party in a parliamentary election two months ago.He has however vowed to maintain Saakashvili's pro-Western course and continue Georgia's bid to join NATO and the European Union -- an ambition strongly opposed by Russia.Moscow has stationed thousands of troops in the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since recognising them as independent after the war -- a move that Tbilisi and its Western allies regard as occupation.Since the war, Russian and Georgian diplomats meet regularly in Geneva for talks hosted by the United Nations, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe.The talks have not so far resulted in any major decisions or compromises.