Medvedev says military operations in Georgia over

August 13th, 2008 - 12:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 13 (DPA) Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has declared an end to Russian military operations in Georgia, as Moscow officials called for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili to stand down. Georgia and Russia Tuesday already were staking out negotiating ground in the debate of separation of forces terms, with Medvedev repeating demands that no discussions could even begin, before all Georgian troops leave Ossetia and Georgia rejects force as a means of resolving territorial disputes.

Medvedev’s announcement Tuesday of a ceasefire came after French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived in Moscow, on a mission to end the fighting. France currently holds the European Union presidency and had Monday put forward a six-phase plan for stablizing the region.

“This is not a peace agreement by any means,” Sarkozy said at Moscow press conference. “But it is a good first step.”

Saakashvili accepted the French plan immediately. Later in the day his government formally requested military assistance from NATO.

Sarkozy after meeting with Medvedev in Moscow returned to Tbilisi for further Ossetia war ceasefire talks to included Polish President Lech Kaszynski, Lithuanian President Valdas Adamkus, Ukrainian President Viktor Yushchenko, and Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves.

Medvedev said after a meeting with his military leadership that the safety of Russian “peacekeeping” forces and Russian citizens had been guaranteed, and the Georgian “aggressor” had been punished.

But Russia’s Defence Ministry had been given orders to resume military operations at any time if Georgia were to restart “violence against the population” of South Ossetia, Medvedev added.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov speaking at a second press conference called on Saakashvili to stand down.

“We believe that Mr Saakashvili cannot be our partner in negotiations. It would be better if he goes,” said Lavrov during a press conference in Moscow with his Finnish counterpart Alexander Stubb.

Renewed Georgian political turmoil was apparent only hours after the Russian ceasefire went into effect, with widespread Georgian media reports that Nino Burjanadze, a former prime minister recently fallen out with Saakashvili, broadly hinting she intended to challenge him sooner rather than later.

“This is not the time to make political attacks … with Russian tanks only a few kilometres from our capital,” she said. “There will be time for determining responsibility and guilt later on.”

A new Georgian political party led by Boujanadze appeared to be forming and would be announced officially in coming weeks, Georgian political observers said.

Lavrov said Moscow would not discuss any permanent ceasefire until all Georgian combat units had returned to their bases.

Colonel General Anatoliy Nogovytsyn, the officer heading up Russia’s successful offensive against Georgia, said Georgia’s military needed to be reduced in strength to make “future aggression impossible,” the Interfax news agency reported.

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