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Air traffic re-opened with first direct flight since 2008

Georgia and Russia have re-opened air traffic with the first direct flight from Tbilisi to Moscow since the August 2008 war between the two countries.


AFP - Russia and Georgia on Friday re-opened air traffic with the first direct flight from the Georgian capital since the two countries' war in August 2008, an AFP journalist witnessed.

The Georgian Airways charter flight took off from Tbilisi at 0838 GMT and was expected in Moscow at 1105 GMT, officials said.

In all five charter flights will shuttle between Moscow and Saint Petersburg from January 8 to 10, but no further charter flights are yet scheduled.

Moscow has not so far authorised the Georgian airline's request for the resumption of regular flights.

"Georgian and Russian aviation authorities will hold negotiations and I hope the regular flights will be resumed soon," Georgian Airways chief executive Tamaz Gaiashvili told AFP.

Direct flights have been suspended since the two countries went to war over the Russian-backed separatist Georgian region of South Ossetia.

Last month in the first sign of a thaw in relations, Georgia and Russia announced they had agreed to re-open their land border to traffic.

Under Swiss mediation, they agreed to open the land crossing at Upper Lars -- the only one that does not pass through either South Ossetia or Georgia's other rebel region of Abkhazia.

Fighting erupted in August 2008, when Russian forces poured into Georgia to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia.

Russian forces later mostly withdrew to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia, both of which Moscow recognised as independent states, a move so far followed by only Nicaragua, Venezuela and the Pacific island state of Nauru.

Moscow cut air links with Georgia during the war, only four months after they had resumed following an 18-month embargo.

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