Face-to-face talks between Russian and Georgian leaders aimed to ease tentious

The planned meeting on the sidelines of an economic forum in St. Petersburg comes with relations between Russia and its tiny neighbor at their lowest point in years, following a Russian ban on Georgian wine and mineral water and rumblings from Moscow suggesting it could recognize two breakaway Georgian regions.

Ties between Georgia and Russia have soured badly since the election in 2004 of the pro-Western Saakashvili, who has sought to lessen Russian influence after centuries of subordination to Moscow and bring his country closer to Europe and the United States, the AP reports.

Amid angry rhetoric from both sides, Saakashvili has also stressed the need for constructive relations with Russia, which is a main market for Georgian goods and a hindrance to his hopes of reining in the breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia provinces.

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