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Germany's FM To Visit Georgia, Russia On Peace Mission

Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier
BERLIN -- German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will travel to Georgia and Russia this week in a bid to ease rising tensions over the breakaway region of Abkhazia, a ministry spokesman has said.

"The goal of the trip is to find a way, in consultation with all of the parties, out of the spiral of increasingly confrontational incidents," spokesman Andreas Peschke told a government news conference.

He said Steinmeier would leave on July 17 for Tbilisi and meet the Georgian president and foreign minister, before traveling to Abkhazia and Moscow for meetings with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

"We have played an especially intensive role in seeking ways to calm the Abkhazia conflict and proposals have been presented," Peschke said.

"We are in close, regular contact with all parties," he added, noting that Steinmeier had spoken with Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in recent days to help prepare the trip.

Tension has risen in Georgia after Russia said last week its air force had overflown Georgian territory and Georgia's pro-Western government recalled its ambassador in Moscow in protest.

Russia said the flights were to prevent Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili from launching a military operation against South Ossetia, another separatist region. It was Russia's first admission for at least a decade that its air force had flown over Georgian territory without permission.