PROGRESS IN RUSSIAN-GEORGIAN TALKS ON BASES PULLOUT

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MOSCOW, May 25 (RIA Novosti) - The Russian and Georgian delegations negotiating the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia achieved certain progress, the press and information department of the Russian Foreign Ministry said. The May 23-24 talks in Tbilisi focused on the terms, order of functioning and withdrawal of the Russian military bases from Georgia's territory and the current support for Russian servicemen.

Other Russian-Georgian issues were on the agenda.

"The sides managed to draft mutually acceptable versions of a possible bilateral statement by the Russian and Georgian presidents. The remaining issues will be settled through further political dialogue," the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

The Russian and Georgian delegations were headed by Russian Foreign Ministry Special Envoy for Relations with the CIS Countries and Ambassador at Large Igor Savolsky and Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Merab Antadze.

There are two Russian military bases in Georgia, in Akhalkalaki (near the Armenian border) and Batumi (Adzharia). A decision on the withdrawal of these bases was made at the OSCE summit in Istanbul in 1999. The withdrawal terms became a stumbling block in bilateral relations. The Russian Defense Ministry said that the troops could be withdrawn no sooner than in 3-4 years. The Georgian side insisted on the pullout by January 1, 2008.

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