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Russia-Georgia border crossing reopens

Georgian border guards at the Darial Gorge (Verkhny Lars) border-crossing checkpoint, 1 March 2010

Russia and Georgia have reopened a border crossing that has been closed since July 2006, officials say.

The Verkhny Lars crossing - situated on a narrow mountain pass high in the Caucasus mountains - was closed by Russia amid deteriorating relations.

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

The agreement to open the crossing came after a request from Georgia's landlocked neighbour, Armenia.

If the unceremonious opening is of benefit to anyone it is to Armenia, which is landlocked and whose economy is suffering one of the sharpest declines in growth in the former Soviet Union, says the BBC's Tom Esslemont at the border.

No warming

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

map

Diplomatic relations between the two have not been restored since the war.

The crossing was once an important point on a vital trade route, says our correspondent.

Now that it is open again it brings Georgia and Russia physically closer, but not politically, he adds.

Georgia says the opening does not signify a warming of ties between the two countries. Georgian export goods are still under a Russian embargo.

Relations between the Georgian and Russian leaders, meanwhile, remain sharply antagonistic.



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