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Medvedev Says Air Links With Georgia Could Resume

Georgian ties with Russia were suspended after the brief war in August 2008.
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev says he sees no obstacles to a resumption of air links with Georgia, which were cut after last year's brief war.

Medvedev's comment was the first indication by a top Russian official that some normalization of relations with U.S. ally Georgia might be in prospect after their August 2008 conflict over the rebel region of South Ossetia.

"I am not going to contact the incumbent Georgian President [Mikheil Saakashvili], but this is not a reason we should put off other decisions until later," Medvedev told a media forum.

"I believe direct flights by air companies and opening a border checkpoint are possible.... I see no problem here," Medvedev added.

Medvedev did not explain how air links might operate, as Russia is not currently issuing visas for Georgian citizens and the two countries have suspended diplomatic relations.

The cutting of trade and transport links were among the first moves Russia took against Georgia in the build-up of tensions which ultimately led to their brief war.

Russia sent troops to repel Tbilisi's attempt to retake the pro-Moscow rebel province of South Ossetia. The West criticized Russia for a disproportionate response after Moscow's troops penetrated deep into the Georgian heartland and planes bombed targets in Tbilisi.

Medvedev has ruled out normalizing relations with Saakashvili, who spearheaded Georgia's move away from a traditional reliance on Russia towards close ties with Washington and pursuit of NATO and EU membership.

However, he and other Kremlin leaders say Russia is not hostile to Georgia as a country.