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Breakaway republics in Georgia-Russia feud

March 3, 2012 at 8:36 PM

TBILISI, Georgia, March 3 (UPI) -- Georgia says its rift with Russia won't end until Moscow pulls its troops pull out of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and withdraws recognition of the republics.

If Russia meets the conditions, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said, Russian-Georgian diplomatic relations would be fully restored, Novosti-Georgia news agency reported Saturday.

Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia were severed when the neighboring countries went to war over the breakaway republics in 2008. Russia recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia while Georgia declared them occupied territories.

"We automatically broke diplomatic relations with Russia after the well-known events in August 2008 and we will automatically restore them as soon as Russia recognizes our sovereignty and the borders of the united Georgia," Saakashvili said.

"If Russia wants a dialogue, it must hold it with Georgian people, for whom a de-occupation of Georgian territory is the only condition for talks."

Saakashvili signed a decree Tuesday that unilaterally abolished visas for Russians traveling to Georgia, RIA Novosti reported.

The decree, which took effect Wednesday, allows Russians to stay in Georgia up to 90 days without visas.

Saakashvili said the move would make it easier for Russian citizens of Georgian descent to meet with their relatives, while attracting Russian investment to Georgia.

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