01:22 GMT +3 hours24 November 2014
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Georgia Not Yet Ready to Restore Russia Ties - Minister

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(updated 18:28 28.10.2014)
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Georgia is not ready to restore diplomatic relations with Russia while it continues to "occupy" Georgian territory, Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Pandzhikidze said on Friday.

Georgia is not ready to restore diplomatic relations with Russia while it continues to "occupy" Georgian territory, Georgian Foreign Minister Maya Pandzhikidze said on Friday.

"Twenty percent of Georgia's territory is occupied by Russia and Russia has opened two embassies, in Sukhumi and Tskhinvali, and while that situation remains, diplomatic relations cannot be restored," she said.

"For all of us, not just this ministry, for the whole country, there is no more important aim than to achieve a de-occupation," she said.

Pandzhikidze's comments come a day after prime-minister designate Bidzina Ivanishvili said restoration of national unity will remain the priority of the new Georgian government.

Relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been persistently blighted since Georgia's independence from the Soviet Union over the issue of Tbilisi's relations with its breakaway regions. As long ago as 1991, Tbilisi accused Moscow of fomenting separatism in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to undermine its independence from Moscow.

Russia has previously accused Tbilisi of ignoring the aspirations of national minorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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

The already strained relations between Georgia and Russia plunged to an all-time low during the reign of President Mikheil Saakashvili, culminating in a five-day conflict in August 2008 over the breakaway republic of South Ossetia.

Georgia suffered a military 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. Georgia broke off diplomatic relations in August 2008 after Russia sent its forces into Georgia and recognized both regions as independent states.