Georgian Foreign Ministry to set up special Russian unit

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A department for Russian affairs will be established in the Georgian Foreign Ministry, the South Caucasus country's president said Friday.
TBILISI, February 1 (RIA Novosti) - A department for Russian affairs will be established in the Georgian Foreign Ministry, the South Caucasus country's president said Friday.

Mikheil Saakashvili told ministry staff at the welcoming ceremony for newly-appointed foreign minister David Bakradze that the Russia Department "will work to improve relations with Russia."

Saakashvili said the department needed well-trained staff to improve relations with Russia, marred in particular over Russia's alleged support for the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

He said diplomat Giorgy Vashadze, who also started work at the Foreign Ministry, had previous experience in the former Soviet foreign ministry.

Saakashvili also said Georgia is in a difficult situation over the Kosovo issue. "The process of Kosovo recognition will start soon and this threatens our country with a storm," he said.

If the predominantly Albanian-populated Serb province receives independence, this would create an international precedent, and other self-proclaimed republics could follow the example.

South Ossetia and Abkhazia declared their independence from Georgia following bloody conflicts in the wake of the Soviet Union's collapse. Georgia's current pro-Western leadership has been seeking to recover its influence in the separatist regions and secure international support on the issue.

Saakashvili, recently reelected for a second term as Georgian president, recently admitted that what he regrets most from his first term is the deterioration in relations with Russia.

Saakashvili thanked former foreign minister Gela Bezhuashvili for his good work and said he would now head the Information and Intelligence Service under the president.

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