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Russia and Georgia agreed during discussions Tuesday to set up a group to look into restoring air links suspended last fall amid a bitter diplomatic row
Russia and Georgia agreed during discussions Tuesday to set up a group to look into restoring air links suspended last fall amid a bitter diplomatic row, a Russian Transport Ministry official said Tuesday. Russia froze air traffic with the South Caucasus state in September following Tbilisi's brief arrest of Russian army officers on spying charges. Russian officials claimed the decision was based on the outstanding debt owed by Georgian airlines to Russia, whereas Georgia insisted the move was political. "We have completed the first round of consultations aimed at checking [Georgian] airlines' debts," said Gennady Loshchyonov, head of the department on state policy in civil aviation. Loshchyonov said the working group was tasked with analyzing ways of settling airlines' debts, which currently total $3.6 million. He said the results could be presented in late February. Alexander Chkhikvadze, the acting head of Georgia's National Transport Regulating Commission, said after the discussions that the countries were to settle a raft of differences, but declined to give details. "Breaking something is always easier than gluing it," he said. Georgia earlier denied that its air companies owed Russia anything. Russia has restored postal links with Georgia, also suspended in September, and returned its ambassador and diplomatic staff to Tbilisi following what was the worst spat between the former Soviet allies since the Western-leaning Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in the ex-Soviet nation.
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