23:40 GMT +3 hours25 November 2014
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Georgia to Improve Relations with Russia - Minister

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The new Georgian government will implement a plan to improve relations with Moscow, while maintaining its policy of pro-Western orientation, Foreign Minister designate Maya Panjikidze said on Monday.

The new Georgian government will implement a plan to improve relations with Moscow, while maintaining its policy of pro-Western orientation, Foreign Minister designate Maya Panjikidze said on Monday.

“There is a specific plan and idea on how to improve relations with Russia,” Panjikidze said. The aim of the Georgian Foreign Ministry is “to improve relations with Russia thus reestablish territorial integrity of the country.”

Georgian billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, leader of the Georgian Dream coalition which won the nation's October 1 parliamentary elections, named Panjikidze among his candidates for key posts in the new Georgian government on Monday. The Georgian parliament plans to approve the cabinet on October 20-21.

Panjikidze maintained the USA remains Tbilisi's main strategic partner and European integration is Georgian Dream's most important aim.

Ivanishvili has said in interviews he intends to combine a policy of EU integration and NATO membership with improvement in relations with Russia, but did not explain how he would reconcile the conflict in those aspirations. Moscow has repeatedly said any Georgian accession to NATO is unacceptable.

The already strained elations between Georgia and Russia plunged to an all-time low during the reign of President Mikheil Saakashvili, culminating in a five-day conflict in 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia. Georgia suffered a humiliating defeat, and the de facto loss of one-fifth of its territory, after Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another breakaway republic, Abkhazia.

Both republics already enjoyed an element of independence from Tbilisi after Georgia was wracked by civil war and separatist conflict in the early 1990's, but neither have gained widespread international recognition and Georgia regards them as breakaway territories.

Georgian Dream won 83 out of 150 seats in parliament. President Mikheil Saakashvili’s United National Movement (UNM) gained just 67 seats. Constitutional changes due to enter force later this year will give the prime minister and parliament much of the powers previously held by the president.