Agence France-Presse – “Russia commits to Georgia pull-back”

Russia commits to Georgia pull-back

Agence France-Presse | September 8, 2008

President Dmitry Medvedev pledged Monday to withdraw all Russian troops from Georgia apart from Abkhazia and South Ossetia whose independence he maintained was “irrevocable”.

Medvedev said he had made the commitment after receiving assurances from a visiting European Union delegation led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy that Georgia would not resort to force again in its rebel regions.

Under the deal brokered by Sarkozy, Medvedev agreed to the deployment of at least 200 European Union observers in Georgia by October 1 to monitor the pull-out.

“Russia received a guarantee from the European Union and from France as representative of the European Union on non-use of force by the Georgian side,” Medvedev said.

There will be a “complete withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces” from zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia 10 days after the deployment of the EU observers, he added.

Sarkozy, the current EU president, said negotiations on a new EU-Russia partnership agreement — put on hold over the crisis — could resume “as early as October” if Moscow fulfilled the agreed measures.

Later in Tbilisi after talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili he said there would also be “consequences” for Russia if it did not comply but insisted that great strides had been made since the conflict.

“Frankly, there is no comparison with the situation in the first half of the month of August. I remind you that when we took this issue up the whole world was convinced that Russian military forces were moving on the capital of Georgia. Today, we are negotiating their withdrawal,” he said.

Saakashvili insisted that any solution to the conflict must respect his country’s territorial integrity and announced a summit in Tbilisi on the crisis in October. He did not elaborate on who would be invited to the summit.

“We must continue to implement the European solution to reach a definitive solution respecting Georgia’s territorial integrity and the principle of justice for our country and for our region,” he said.

Washington stuck to a firm line, however, with US President George W. Bush taking a long-awaited decision to freeze a landmark civilian nuclear agreement with Russia in protest at Moscow’s military moves in Georgia.

“The president intends to notify Congress that he has today rescinded his prior determination regarding the US-Russia agreement for peaceful nuclear cooperation,” a statement said.

An official at the Russian foreign ministry reacted with ambivalence to the move, saying simply that such as step was “regrettable” and “out of keeping with bilateral relations.”

The new Russian timetable for a pull-out followed EU assurances that Georgia will live up to its ceasefire commitments with Sarkozy handing Medvedev a letter from Saakashvili promising not to use force again.

The Russian leader was unequivocal about the status of the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia which Saakashvili says must remain part of Georgia but which Moscow has recognised as independent states.

“We made a choice for ourselves,” Medvedev said. “This choice is final and irrevocable,” he added while announcing that international talks would be held on the two regions on October 15 in Geneva.

Russia’s foreign ministry said it planned to exchange documents Tuesday with Abkhazia and South Ossetia to set up diplomatic relations.

Russian tanks and troops surged into Georgia on August 8 to rebuff a Georgian offensive to retake South Ossetia.

Moscow argued that the action was to protect thousands of people to whom it had granted Russian citizenship since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

Hundreds of people on both sides are estimated to have been killed in the conflict, which wrought extensive destruction on the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali. Tens of thousands fled their homes.

The conflict sent relations between Russia and the West to their lowest point since the Cold War.

Georgia, whose army was routed by the Russians after its ill-fated assault to regain control of South Ossetia, says Russia has almost 1,500 soldiers still in Georgia proper which it regards as an occupying force.

In another development Monday, Georgia accused Russia before the UN’s International Court of Justice in The Hague of conducting a long-running campaign of “ethnic cleansing” in Georgian territory.

Russia has not responded publicly to the Georgian application, but alleges that Georgia committed “genocide” with its assault on Tskhinvali.

Published in: on September 8, 2008 at 9:52 PM  Leave a Comment  

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