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    GEORGIAN GENERAL WELCOMES AGREEMENT BETWEEN MOSCOW AND TBILISI ON JOINT BORDER GUARD

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    TBILISI, February 18 (RIA Novosti correspondent Marina Kvaratskheliya) - The Russian and Georgian cooperation efforts to jointly guard their border will prevent accusations that Chechen separatists have infiltrated the border, Valery Chkheidze, head of the Georgian Border Guard Department, said while commenting on an agreement signed on February 11 in Moscow between the border guard agencies of the two countries.

    Under the agreement, Georgian and Russian border guards are to start joint patrols of the Chechen, Ingush, and Dagestan parts of the border. Dagestan, Ingushetia and Chechnya, are Russian republics that neighbor Georgia.

    Now Moscow and Tbilisi will be "equally responsible for the situation on the border," this includes the responsibility for separatists' illegal border crossing, underscored the general. According to the general, separatists come to the Pankisi Gorge (a mountainous part of Georgia neighboring Chechnya that Moscow considers to be the main hideout of Chechen separatists after their combat raids in Chechnya) "not from Libya or Argentina, but from Russia. Therefore, the responsibility for border violations must be shared between the border guard agencies of both countries." The general noted that the cooperation in the guarding of the border included joint patrols of parts of the border, exchange of operational information, reconnaissance flights and the establishment of hot lines between the border guard outposts and commandant's offices.

    Russian and Georgian border guard agencies are planning to sign a protocol on the exchange of liaison officers in March. Russian border guard officers will be assigned to three Georgian border guard outposts, while their Georgian counterparts will be sent to the Dagestan, Chechen and Ingush border guard units on the Russian territory, said the head of the Georgian Border Guard Department.

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