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Russia govt. to consider recognizing Georgia breakaway regions

World

Russia’s foreign minister said on Wednesday that the government would study closely a proposal by the Russian parliament to recognize the breakaway Georgian republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia’s lower house of parliament proposed on March 21 that the president and the government consider the issue of whether to recognize the Georgian regions, which have been seeking independence since the early 1990s. “It [the proposal] will be studied closely and all the factors will be taken into account,” Sergei Lavrov told parliamentary members. He said the unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo from Serbia on February 17 was among the factors that had led to Russia considering the move. Russia has called the recognition of Kosovo an example of double standards by the US and other countries that have acknowledged Pristina’s sovereignty. He also mentioned Russia’s “consistent adherence to the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity,” and “the supremacy of international law,” as well as Russia’s commitments under the UN Charter as factors.

Shortly after Kosovo declared its independence, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, along with Moldova’s Transdnestr, asked Russia’s parliament, the United Nations and other organizations to recognize their independence. In their statement, backed by 441 of 450 votes, Russian MPs said it was necessary to protect people in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, most of whom are Russian passport holders, from a possible invasion by Georgia or from Georgia’s possible accession to NATO.

The Russian Foreign Ministry denied on Wednesday claims that Russia had previously promised never to recognize the secessionist regions. The Foreign Ministry has commented on an interview by Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, published by the Kommersant daily on March 31. “This is not the first time that the Foreign Ministry has specified the genuine content of the conversation between the presidents of Russia and Georgia in Moscow on February 21. We have already said that the issue of unsettled conflicts was not discussed in detail by Vladimir Putin and Mikheil Saakashvili, and of course Russia did not promise to the Georgian side never to recognize Abkhazia or South Ossetia,” the ministry stated.

The ministry added that attempts to misrepresent Russia’s position made “rather an unpleasant impression.” Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia were involved in bloody conflicts with Georgia after proclaiming independence following the split-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. Peacekeeping in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone is currently carried out by collective CIS forces staffed with Russian service personnel. The situation in the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict area is controlled by joint forces also including Russian peacekeepers. Tbilisi has repeatedly called for replacing the current peacekeeping format with international contingents. However, Lavrov said Russia would keep its peacekeepers in the conflict zones. “Our peacekeeping contingent in the regions will be maintained and reinforced on the basis of our international commitments,” the minister said.

Abkhazia has accused Georgia of deliberately sparking tensions in conflict zones in order to speed up its admission to NATO. The former Soviet republic’s bid for entry into NATO’s Membership Action Plan, a precursor for membership in the Western military alliance, is to be discussed at a NATO summit in Bucharest from April 2-4. “Resolute actions by our troops stopped bloodshed in Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestr. Our peacekeepers have also ensured so far relative stability in these regions, despite provocations, primarily by the Georgian side,” Lavrov said. The minister also said that Russia was seeking to improve relations with Georgia and was ready to consider resuming Georgian wine imports, suspended two years ago. “We are ready to consider the measures being taken by Georgia to bring its wines and agricultural products into line with the necessary requirements,” Lavrov said.

Russia imposed a ban on Georgian wine, mineral water and agricultural products in March 2006 over concerns that they contained traces of pesticides and heavy metals. Georgia countered that the move was political and did not reflect the quality of its goods. Despite remaining tensions, Russia resumed air and sea links with Georgia last week. Moscow imposed a transportation and postal blockade on the Caucasus state in October 2006 in apparent retaliation for the detention on espionage charges of four Russian army officers. (rian.ru)

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