West, Russia on new confrontation course

September 16th, 2008 - 3:22 pm ICT by ANI  

London, Sept.16 (ANI): NATO has reportedly 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. 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.
The Telegraph quoted him as saying 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.”
“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 fulfill the membership criteria despite the crisis,” he said.
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.
Georgia’’s President Mikheil Saakashvili hailed de Hoop Scheffers visit to Tblisi as a “powerful signal” of solidarity.
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. Moscow has announced long-term plans to keep almost 8,000 troops in the two regions, which only Russia recognizes 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.
A Russian move to declare South Ossetia and Abkhazia independent has also been condemned by NATO as an attempt to redraw the map of Georgia.
NATO is insisting that Russia honors 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 October 1 to supervise Russian withdrawal from areas surrounding South Ossetia and Abkhazia. (ANI)

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