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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Georgia Optimistic About Russian Ties

Itar-TassGela Bezhuashvili
Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili came to Russia on Wednesday, voicing hope for an easing of tensions between the two nations.

When Georgia briefly detained four purported Russian spies in late September, Moscow responded with a sweeping transport and postal blockade on Georgia and a crackdown on Georgian migrants living in Russia.

Bezhuashvili told reporters upon his arrival in Moscow that he expected a "constructive dialogue" with Russia.

He urged Russia to abandon "the methods of pressure that are being used now," Interfax reported. "I believe all these difficulties are surmountable," he said.

Speaking at the start of a meeting with Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Bezhuashvili said he hoped for "normalization" of relations and believed dialogue will help, Itar-Tass reported.

Lavrov also said he hoped the meeting would help to improve relations, the agency reported.

Bezhuashvili said one of the goals of his visit was to negotiate a time and venue for a meeting between the Russian and Georgian presidents. He said it was possible to hold it on the sidelines of a Commonwealth of Independent States summit in Minsk later this month.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have steadily deteriorated since the 2004 election of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, who has sought to take the Caucasus nation out of Russia's orbit, bolster ties with the West and join NATO in 2008 -- a course that has angered Moscow.

Moscow has shrugged off Western calls for lifting the sanctions against Georgia, saying it was acting because the Georgian government was plotting to bring its breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold by force -- allegations Georgia denies.

Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov told Russia Today television on Wednesday that Moscow was not planning to annex Georgia's breakaway regions and urged Tbilisi to negotiate a peaceful settlement with them.

Asked whether he thought the tensions between the two countries could erupt into war, Ivanov dismissed the suggestion as "madness."

Bezhuashvili's visit came one day after Saakashvili compared Russia's policy of rounding up and deporting Georgians to tsarist policies of dispossessing Jews.

This was one of the reasons that "Georgians and Jews understand each other on a visceral level," Saakashvili said Tuesday while on an official visit to Haifa, Israel.

Saakashvili was speaking during a major energy conference that was held at Haifa University.

The trip marked a further strengthening of ties between Georgia and Israel.

The Georgian reformist leader noted his country's "complications" with Russia and compared Georgia to Israel.

"I know what it means to try to build one's nation when danger is knocking at the door," he said.

Georgia is important to world fuel supplies because three important pipelines -- two for oil and one for natural gas -- pass through the state. Saakashvili stressed that the pipelines symbolized his country's ties to the West and urged Israelis to invest in Georgia, where he said business opportunities "abound."

Another former Soviet republic represented at the Haifa energy conference was Kazakhstan, which is thought to possess 3 percent to 5 percent of the world's oil reserves.

Kasim Massimov, Kazakhstan's deputy prime minister, said Kazakhstan was interested both in selling oil to Israel and in getting Israeli investments as part of the country's push to diversify its economy, currently heavily dependent on oil sales.