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Georgia Doubts Russia Ready To Negotiate Base Withdrawal

7 April 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia says it believes Russian envoys sent to negotiate the withdrawal of military bases have arrived in Tbilisi with no serious proposals.

Talking to reporters today, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Kakha Sikharulidze said Russian Special Ambassador Lev Mironov and his aides do not seem to be ready for serious talks.

"Talks are continuing and perhaps it may be best to let them continue their course," said Sikharulidze. "There is a general rule in diplomacy, which says that comments should not be made while talks are under way. However, it appears -- please pay attention to each of my words, it appears, it appears that they are not ready for serious talks."

Both sides are at odds over the fate of Russia's two remaining bases in Georgia. The facilities are located in Batumi, the capital of the autonomous republic of Ajara, and in the predominantly Armenian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti.

Georgia wants Russia to vacate the two bases as soon as possible, but Moscow insists it needs at least three to four years to complete the pullout. The Georgian parliament last month voted a non-biding resolution saying the government should demand that the Russian bases be vacated by the end of this year if no agreement is reached by May 15. (IMEDI TV GE/CIVIL GEORGIA GE)