Georgia Seeks End to 'Confrontation' with Russia

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Georgia said Monday that it wants to end "confrontation" with Russia after the ex-Soviet foes held their first direct talks since they fought a brief war in 2008.

"It is not possible to remain in perpetual confrontation with Russia," Tbilisi's special representative for Russia, Zurab Abashidze, told a news conference after returning from talks in Switzerland on Friday with Moscow's Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.

Abashidze said that the neighbors would conduct regular dialogue, initially on the subjects of trade, transport, border and "humanitarian-cultural" issues, in order to find a way out of the "deadlock" in relations.

Georgia and Russia have not had diplomatic relations since the 2008 war and the Kremlin refuses to have any dealings with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

But new Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili has made normalizing ties with Russia a priority since his Georgian Dream coalition came to power after defeating Saakashvili's party in parliamentary elections two months ago.

"Our goal is to minimize security risks for our country," Abashidze said.

"We have started dialogue because its only alternative is deadlock and constant tensions," he said.

However Abashidze stressed that Tbilisi's pro-Western foreign policy "cannot be a subject of discussion" with Moscow.

Ivanishili has vowed to maintain Saakashvili's pro-Western course and continue Georgia's bid to join NATO -- an ambition strongly opposed by Russia.

Abashidze also said there would be no compromise with Russia over Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity -- a reference to two Georgian breakaway regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were controversially recognized as independent states by the Kremlin after the 2008 war.

Russia has permanently stationed thousands of troops in the two regions which it also supports economically -- a move condemned by Georgia as occupation.

Karasin has described the talks in Geneva as "constructive".

"Russia remains in favor of resolving this deep crisis," he said on Friday.

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