August 25, 2008 Monday
European countries and the United States Monday urged Russia to reject calls to recognisethe independence of two Georgian breakaway regions, warning it would only ratchet up tensions in the region. “The sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia must not be questioned,” said German deputy government spokesman Thomas Steg.
He was reacting to the vote Monday by both houses of the Russian parliament approving an appeal to President Dmitry Medvedev to formally recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.
Washington said any move that did not respect Georgia sovereignty, “to us would be unacceptable,” said US State Department spokesman Robert Wood.
In London, the British Foreign Office noted that Russian parliament’s decision “is not going to help things, it only adds to the tension in the region,” a spokeswoman said.
Berlin echoed that view saying the Russian lawmakers’ decision “does nothing to help pacify or defuse the situation (in the Caucasus) and that is why we expect neither the government nor the Russian president to go along with it,” Steg said.
In Tbilisi, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili dismissed the Russian parliament’s vote as lacking legitimacy.
“This is our tragic geopolitical fate,” Saakashvili told his cabinet in a statement broadcast on television, in an apparent reference to Georgia’s history of war and occupation.
“But nobody can legalise the annexation of the Georgian territories,” he said.
Georgia’s Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told AFP on Monday that the international community would not reject any move by Russia to recognise an independent South Ossetia and Abkazia.
“No international organisation or serious state will support Russia in this,” he said, accusing Moscow of attempting to “legalise the results of ethnic cleansing” and seeking only “to threaten Georgia.”
Italy’s top diplomat called on Moscow to be prudent in responding to the Russian parliament’s decision, reminding the Kremlin of the volatility of the region, where a shaky ceasefire is in force.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini spoke Monday with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov, asking that Russia be “particularly prudent… considering the delicate nature of the current situation in the region,” the minister’s statement said.
The two also discussed an EU summit on the Georgia-Russia crisis to be held in Brussels on September 1, which Frattini said was “confirmation of the European Union’s commitment to finding a balanced solution to the crisis.
Moscow has backed separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia — internationally recognised as part of Georgia — since their break with Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
Calls for recognising the two provinces as independent countries grew stronger after Russian troops rolled into South Ossetia on August 8 to fight off a Georgian offensive to retake the breakaway province.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country holds the current EU presidency, brokered a six-point peace plan between Moscow and Tbilisi, but European nations have criticised Russia for failing to completely withdraw from Russia.
“We have not changed our position, namely that the sovereignty of Georgia must be respected and for Russia to stick to the six-point plan and withdraw its forces completely to the August 7 positions,” before the conflict began, the spokeswoman for the British Foreign Office said.