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Russia, Georgia Resume Security Talks, Clash Over Visas

Russia and Georgia have resumed internationally mediated talks in Geneva aimed at preventing another flare-up of violence following their brief war in August 2008.

UN spokeswoman Elena Ponomareva said the 13th round of talks, which have also involved representatives of the Moscow-backed breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, was due to last one day.

The European Union, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the United Nations are mediating the talks.

The latest round of the confidence-building talks comes amid heightened tensions in the region, with Georgia last month accusing Russian forces in South Ossetia of seizing territory beyond the boundaries of the region that Moscow has recognized as an independent state.

For its part, Moscow has slammed Georgia's decision to lift visa requirements for residents of Russia's North Caucasus.

In a statement released today, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the move was a "provocation" aimed at sowing division and destabilizing the volatile region.

Georgia, which has no diplomatic relations with Russia since their 2008 war, announced the decision this week, saying it aimed at boosting ties between Caucasian peoples.

compiled from agency reports