MOSCOW, January 23 (RIA Novosti) – Russian President Vladimir Putin will meet on Wednesday with Catholicos Patriarch of All Georgia Ilia II, who is on a rare six-day visit to Russia hoping to help improve the relations between the two countries that fought a brief war in 2008.
Ilia II met on Monday with Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia Kirill and received an award of the International Fund for the Unity of the Orthodox Peoples in recognition of his contribution to strengthening ties between Orthodox believers and churches around the world.
The Georgian patriarch, who is known to be a strong advocate of normalizing relations with Russia, expressed hope during the meeting with the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church that his visit would help resolve “problems which exist between our governments.”
On January 11, Putin congratulated Ilia II on his 80th birthday and 35th anniversary of enthronement, recognizing his contribution to maintaining “the centuries-long ties of friendship and mutual understanding between our peoples during difficult phases of history.”
Russia and Georgia severed diplomatic ties after their August 2008 war over South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after South Ossetia and another republic, Abkhazia, broke away.
Georgian Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili, whose Georgian Dream coalition won the October 1 parliamentary election, said in November that Tbilisi is restarting its ties with Moscow “from a clean slate” but that restoration of diplomatic relations will be linked to the issue of Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Moscow, however, keeps ruling out any negotiations on the status of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent states.
Official representatives of Russia and Georgia held a meeting on December 14 in Geneva in a first attempt to launch the reconciliation process.
Updated to correct reference to 2008 war.