Russia set to resume imports of Georgian wine and water

Mon Feb 4, 2013 7:46am EST

* Russia, Georgia set to resume trade ties

* Relations shattered by 2008 war

MOSCOW Feb 4 (Reuters) - Russia agreed in principle on Monday to lift an embargo on imports of wine and mineral water from Georgia, a first step towards rebuilding relations shattered by their 2008 war.

Water and wine trade could resume in months, seven years after Russia banned two of its small southern neighbour's main exports as tension mounted before the five-day war.

Prospects of a thaw in relations between the former Soviet republics have improved since Bidzina Ivanishvili, who made his fortune doing business in Russia, became Georgia's prime minister after a parliamentary election last October.

"We have agreed to revive our commercial relations," Levan Davitashvili, the head of Georgia's National Wine Agency, told reporters after talks with Gennady Onishchenko, Russia's consumer protection service chief.

Russian representatives will go to Georgia, possibly as early as next week, to look at the quality control system. They will also begin visiting wine and water producers that have applied for permission to export to Russia, Onishchenko said.

Diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia were severed in 2008 but they held direct talks about bilateral relations in Geneva in December, and last month the Georgian Orthodox Church leader Ilia II met the head of the Russian Orthodox Church and President Vladimir Putin.

Russia has had particularly poor relations with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. He remains in power but his party lost control of the government in the October election and is barred from seeking a new term in a presidential vote to be held this Year.