"Positive shifts" in relations between Georgia and Russia noted on sidelines of Russian-Georgian negotiations

"Positive shifts" in relations between Georgia and Russia have been noted on fringes of Russian-Georgian talks in Tbilisi.

"A stonewall of mistrust is down, and we are moving towards energetic coordination of effort," was the view expressed on Wednesday in interviews given to Russian journalists by high-ranking participants in meetings between Russia's Security Council Secretary Vladimir Rushailo and members of the Georgian leadership and power structures.

During the first two days of his working visit to Georgia Rushailo held talks with Georgia's State Secretary Avtandil Dzhorbenadze, National Security Council secretary Tedo Dzhaparidze, State Security Minister Valerian Khaburdzania, and Interior Minister Koba Nargemashvili.

The talks are being held behind closed doors, and their results can only be gleaned from hints dropped by participants in the lobby of Georgia's State Chancellery or the hotel where the Russian delegation is staying.

As one of the Russian experts told RIA Novosti, "the instruction was to open a constructive dialogue and this was done".

There is full understanding on the struggle against international terrorism, the expert emphasised. "Moreover, we are already speaking of specifics, rather than of general ideas," he believes.

In his view, a positive shift is the Georgian side's readiness to draw up lists of Chechen refugees in the Pankisi Gorge, separating civilians from militants. The Russian delegation expressed its concern over the penetration into Dagestan (a North Caucasian republic neighbouring on Chechnya) of Chechen militants from Pankisi, and also transformation of this Georgian territory into a transshipment point for smuggling arms and narcotics into Russia.

The expert stressed that Georgia's power structures are prepared to conduct joint operations with Russian opposite numbers in sealing off this channel. The Russian delegation made a series of concrete proposals to solve the "painful issue of the Pankisi Gorge".

As was noted by one of the Georgian experts, Georgia finds interesting Russian plans for easing the social and economic situation in Abkhazia, in particular by establishing a permanent rail link with it. Russia proposes that a formula be worked out for the joint running of the railway.

Experts from both sides are unanimous in giving a positive assessment to the current negotiations in Georgia and look to a further development of dialogue in this direction.

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