Page last updated at 12:02 GMT, Thursday, 24 December 2009

Russia and Georgia to reopen border crossing

Georgia map

Russia and Georgia have agreed to reopen a border crossing that has been closed since July 2006, Georgia's foreign ministry says.

The Kazbegi-Upper Lars crossing is likely to reopen next March, deputy foreign minister Nino Kalandadze said.

It is the only crossing that does not go through the Russian-backed breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Georgian forces were driven out of the two regions in a bitter war with Russia in August 2008.

The Russian government has confirmed the border agreement, saying that the checkpoint could "in theory" reopen from 1 March 2010.

But air links could only be re-established if the safety of Russian air crews could be guaranteed, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov said.

Diplomatic relations had not been restored since the war, and that was the problem, he added.

The BBC's Rupert Wingfield-Hayes in Moscow says there has been virtually no contact between Moscow and Tbilisi since the war, so the news that they are to reopen their border is a significant move, especially for the many Georgian and Russian families separated by the conflict.

But the hostility between the Russian and Georgian governments is unabated, our correspondent says.

Russia's Sergei Ivanov on Thursday accused Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili of behaving like the Afghan Taliban, after he ordered the demolition of a Soviet-era war memorial.

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