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Progress And Problems At Georgia-Russia Economic Talks

Georgia's Zurab Noghaideli might turn to the international community (file photo) (AFP) 16 December 2005 -- Russian and Georgian government officials today discussed economic ties in Tbilisi.

Addressing reporters after the talks, Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said the sides had agreed on a number of issues, but had failed to reach progress on others.

Levitin, who co-chairs the Russian-Georgian intergovernmental commission on economic cooperation, said that among the remaining sticking points in bilateral economic ties is Russia's banking presence in Georgia's separatist province of Abkhazia.

Georgia's co-chair, Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli, warned that Tbilisi will turn to the international community for help on this issue.

"[Among sticking points], there is also the problem of those Russian banks that are operating on Abkhazia's territory," Noghaideli said. "This is a very painful issue for us. In fact, [these banks] are operating illegally there, so we are going to appeal to the FATF [Financial Action Task Force]."

The FATF was set up in 1989 by the Paris-based Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) with a view to fighting money laundering.

Georgia claims Abkhaz-based Russian banks are engaged in fraudulent activities. Russia and Abkhazia deny the charge.

Abkhazia, which forcibly won de facto independence from Georgia in 1993, has close political and economic ties with Russia.

(Imedi TV/Novosti-Gruziya/RFE/RL)