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Pragmatism spurs Russia and Georgia toward smoother relations

Signs of a thaw between Russia and Georgia include the reopening of one border post on the major Caucasus highway and a possible move to resume direct air links. Relations between Russia and Georgia behave been in a freeze since last year's war over breakaway Georgian territories.

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The invective between Kremlin leaders and Georgian President Mikhael Saakashvili continues to fly furiously, even though the gunfire from last year's brief Russo-Georgian war has died down.

But amid growing rumors that diplomatic rapprochement may be in the air, experts say some practical necessities are dragging the two antagonists toward at least a partial settlement of their differences.

The signs include last week's deal to reopen a single border post on the major Caucasus highway and a possible agreement to resume direct air links.

"The prevailing mood in Georgia is that relations with Russia should be improved, and the government should work more actively toward that end," says Georgi Khutsishvili, director of the independent Center on Conflict and Negotiation in Tbilisi.

"The fact that leaders of both countries have a terrible personal relationship, and keep saying bad things, is not a suitable basis for state policy. We need to move beyond that," he adds.


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