Georgia to Start Flights Next Week

The Transportation Ministry agreed on Tuesday to restore air travel between Russia and Georgia, which has been suspended for 1 1/2 years amid tensions between the ex-Soviet neighbors.

The ministry said in a statement that it had agreed to restore the air link starting next Tuesday, as a dispute over Georgia's debt for Russia's air navigation services has been resolved.

Russia suspended the air link with Georgia in October 2006, severed postal links and launched a massive crackdown on Georgian migrants, after Georgia briefly detained four Russian military officers, accusing them of spying.

The country's relations with its small southern neighbor have often been tense since U.S.-backed President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in late 2003, vowing to integrate Georgia more closely with the West. While Moscow continues to bristle at Saakashvili's push to join NATO, the two neighbors have made efforts recently to ease tension.

On Tuesday, Deputy Transportation Minister Boris Krol sent a letter to Georgian Deputy Economic Development Minister Vakhtang Lezhava, saying Russia had agreed to resume regular flights, the Transportation Ministry said.

A spokesman for the Federal Air Navigation Service last month said terms had been agreed with Georgia for the repayment by March 10 of $2 million owed by Georgian airlines.

AP, Bloomberg