Georgia, Russia to reopen crossing

By Associated Press
December 25, 2009

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TBILISI, Georgia - Georgia and Russia have reached a deal to open a border crossing that has been closed for three years, Georgia said yesterday, marking a significant thaw in diplomatic relations since last year’s war between the two countries.

The Verkhny Lars crossing is expected to open next March after an agreement was reached during Swiss-brokered talks Wednesday, Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze said.

Verkhny Lars is the only highway crossing between Russia and Georgia that does not go through the Kremlin-backed breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, where most of the fighting was concentrated in August 2008.

Russia has recognized both regions as independent states. Georgia has fiercely protested, maintaining that Russia is trying to annex the regions.

The opening would be the first concrete step in recent efforts to restore transport links between the two former Soviet neighbors. President Dmitry Medvedev of Russia said this month that he saw no reason to keep the crossing closed or to ban direct flights between Russian and Georgia.