Bruno Waterfield – “Georgia: West heads for new confrontation with Russia”

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/georgia/2964781/Georgia-West-heads-for-new-confrontation-with-Russia.html

Georgia: West heads for new confrontation with Russia
Nato served notice on the Kremlin that it would offer every support to Georgia’s ambitions to join the Western Alliance despite the continued presence of Russian troops in the country’s breakaway regions.

Bruno Waterfield | September 15, 2008

In a high-profile visit to Georgia’s capital Tbilisi, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, Nato’s secretary general, condemned the Russian occupation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, even as Moscow continued to insist that both regions were no longer part of Georgian territory.

But he also helped Russia’s neighbour to take a significant step towards its controversial membership of Nato. He said that the launch of a new Nato-Georgia commission to co-ordinate Georgia’s bid would “function to enhance and accelerate our co-operation and integration.”

He added: “The Nato delegation has come to support Georgia and to support its ambition and wish for euro-Atlantic integration.

“There is a need for Georgia to continue the process of aiming to fulfil the membership criteria despite the crisis.”

Nato is still holding back from offering Georgia a Membership Action Plan and the issue will divide members of the Western Alliance at a summit in December.

Mikheil Saakashvili, Georgia’s President, hailed the visit as a “powerful signal” of solidarity.

“Your presence sends a powerful message to our people and a signal to the world that Georgia, together with its friends and allies, does not stand alone,” he said.

Mr De Hoop Scheffer is due to travel to the city of Gori which was attacked by Russia last month and is located near a controversial “buffer zone” guarded by Russian troops that extends into Georgia from South Ossetia.

He has also complained that Russia’s failure to pull back and Moscow’s intentions to maintain high-levels of troops in South Ossetia and Abkhazia are “not acceptable”.

“Russia’s use of force was indiscriminate and Russia must now comply with all elements of the six-part peace plan,” he said.

Moscow has announced long-term plans to keep almost 8,000 troops in the two regions, which only Russia recognises as independent countries.

Before fighting broke out between Russia and Georgia on Aug 7 there were only 3,000 troops deployed, 500 in Abkhazia and 2,500 in South Ossetia.

Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, travelled to Tskhinvali, South Ossetia’s would-be capital city, to insist that the crease-fire meant two rebel regions are no longer legally part of Georgia.

Nato countries, and the European Union, have condemned Russia’s recognition as an attempt to redraw the map of Georgia and have insisted Russia honours a cease-fire, negotiated by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, to pull back to pre-conflict troop levels and positions.

The issue is expected to come to a head as 200 EU peace monitors arrive in Georgia on Oct 1 to supervise Russian withdrawal from areas surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The deployment of the EU observers is expected to pave the way for Russian troops to withdraw by Oct 10 to positions within the breakaway region.

Access for the EU mission to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, has been demanded by European leaders but refused by Moscow, will then spark a major battle at a Geneva summit to decide Georgia’s future next month.

Britain is to commit “around 20” non-uniformed military and police officers to the EU observer mission, leaving France, Germany and Italy as the biggest contributors to the team.

The Daily Telegraph travelled behind Russian military checkpoints to occupied Georgian territory, near the South Ossetian boundary, areas where the EU monitoring mission will be deployed in two weeks.

In the deserted village of Tkviav, over six miles into the Russian “security zone”, ripening fruit rotted on the trees next to deserted or burned out houses.

On man, who asked not to be identified, explained that most people has fled after South Ossetian militias killed seven people in the village.

“We don’t care if it is the EU or someone else. We just want to be safe,” he said.

“We hope Europe will be able to help us.”

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Published in: on September 15, 2008 at 10:41 PM  Leave a Comment  

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