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Steps to improve relations between Russia and Georgia will be high on the agenda of a meeting between the two countries' presidents
Steps to improve relations between Russia and Georgia will be high on the agenda of a meeting between the two countries' presidents Tuesday at an economic forum in St. Petersburg, a Kremlin source said. Relations have deteriorated in the last few months as the two countries traded accusations about the role of Russian peacekeepers in conflict zones on Georgian territory and Russia imposed ban on imports of Georgian wine in March and mineral water two months later over health concerns. "We are expecting to see political initiatives to improve the general atmosphere of the Russian-Georgian relations, which should be accompanied by concrete actions from Georgia," the source said on the eve of the meeting between Russian President Vladimir Putin and his Georgian counterpart, Mikheil Saakashvili. The source said Georgia was expected to raise the issue of the ban on wine and Borjomi mineral water. Georgian officials have accused Moscow of waging a trade war against the country. The source said there were different mechanisms to discuss this issue, but did not specify what measures could be applied to resolve the problem. Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze called the upcoming meeting "another real attempt of Georgia to establish good-neighborly, partner-like and mutually beneficial relations with Russia." He said Georgia expected Russia to take a constructive approach toward Georgian proposals on resolving "frozen conflicts" between Georgia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that date back to the early 1990s. Russia completed the rotation of its peacekeeping contingent in both regions in the beginning of June, but Georgian parliamentarians said they would adopt in late June or early July a resolution that would make the presence of the Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zones illegal. They said they would draft a document on Georgia's withdrawal from the Commonwealth of Independent States, a loose alliance of the former Soviet republics. The Kremlin source said Georgia's mooted withdrawal was not on the agenda of the St. Petersburg meeting, but added that Saakashvili had accepted Putin's invitation to attend an informal CIS summit in Moscow on July 20. The source also said that the sides had not planned to sign any agreements at the June 13 meeting. "We are not planning to sign any document," he said. "This will simply be a business-minded conversation."
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