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Russian FM Downplays Dispute Ahead Of Georgia Visit


Lavrov arrived in Georgia today (file photo) 17 February 2005 -- Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said today that he hopes his visit to Georgia will not be hindered by his rejection of an invitation to visit a monument related to a separatist conflict.

Georgia has downgraded the trip from an official, to a working, visit because Lavrov will not lay a wreath at a monument dedicated to Georgians who died fighting separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Both regions have close Russian ties.

Lavrov, speaking to Russian journalists in Armenia today, said Russia has a role as a mediator and it would be too "emotionally loaded" for him to make such a gesture. He arrived in Georgia today.

He added that the conflict, in his words, "cost the lives of innocent people on all sides."

Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili criticized the decision as unfriendly and inappropriate.

(AP/ITAR-TASS)
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