EU alarmed over Russian troop plans in GeorgiaApril 30th, 2008 - 1:44 pm ICT by admin
Moscow, April 30 (RIA Novosti) The European Union’s foreign policy chief has warned Russia that its decision to send more peacekeepers to a Georgian breakaway region could prove counterproductive. Russia’s Defence Ministry Tuesday announced that it would expand its peacekeeping contingent in Abkhazia, a separatist Black Sea province bordering on Russia, saying Georgia had amassed troops on Abkhazia’s border in preparation for a military operation.
Speaking after talks in Luxembourg with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Javier Solana told reporters: “It is not wise to increase the number of Russian peacekeepers in Georgia right now.”
“Even if the increase in peacekeepers is within limits, if we want to diminish the perception of tensions, I don’t think it is a wise measure to increase now.”
Lavrov gave assurances that Russia was not seeking war with Georgia, and was seeking purely to “prevent frozen conflicts from entering an active phase”.
He reiterated the Defence Ministry’s warning that any attacks by Georgia on Abkhazia or the country’s other rebel region, South Ossetia, would be met by a military retaliation from Russia.
The ministry said in a statement Tuesday: “Any attempts by Georgia to use force to resolve the conflicts, or to employ violent measures against Russian peacekeepers or Russian citizens living in Abkhazia and South Ossetia will encounter an appropriate and tough response.”
Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement Wednesday defending the peacekeeping move. “It is perfectly clear that the Russian steps are aimed at ensuring the basic rights of Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s residents, and not at establishing any kind of control over the territories of the unrecognised republics,” the statement said.
Georgia has condemned Russia’s move as an act of aggression, and urged the international community to prevent an escalation of tension in the region.
Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze said Tuesday: “We condemn Russia’s decision to increase the number of peacekeepers in the conflict zones as an extremely irresponsible move, especially against the background of Russia’s latest statements about Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in 1991 following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Georgia is looking to regain control over the two republics.
Russian President Vladimir Putin called earlier this month for closer ties with the breakaway republics. Putin’s statement provoked an angry response from Tbilisi, which accused Russia of attempting to annex the two republics.