NATO ‘rejects’ Russian recognition of Georgian provinces

August 27th, 2008 - 1:16 am ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Aug 26 (DPA) Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia breaches UN agreements, NATO’s top official said Tuesday in a statement explicitly rejecting the move.But almost simultaneously Russia cut a range of diplomatic and military contacts in response to what it described as NATO’s “inadequate response” to the Georgian war.

“I reject the decision of the Russian government to extend recognition to the South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions of Georgia,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said in a statement.

“This is in direct violation of numerous UN security council resolutions regarding Georgia’s territorial integrity - resolutions that Russia itself has endorsed,” he said.

Russia’s actions in the run-up to its war with Georgia over the two regions in mid-August “call into question Russia’s commitment to peace and security in the Caucasus,” he said.

“NATO supports firmly the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia and calls upon Russia to respect these principles,” de Hoop Scheffer said in his statement.

Hours earlier, Russia announced that it was postponing a visit from the NATO head and closing its ports to visits from NATO ships in response to what it saw as NATO’s “inadequate” reaction to the conflict.

And while it stressed that it was still “committed” to fighting international terrorism, drugs and arms smuggling - missions on which it cooperates with NATO in Afghanistan - it warned that it might yet “scale down” its cooperation if the alliance refuses to condemn Georgia’s actions and keeps supplying it with arms.

NATO is deeply involved against the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan, and is heavily reliant on Russian support to resupply its troops in the country.

Over the last decade Russia has repeatedly accused the alliance of trying to encircle it by expanding into Central Europe (1999) and the former USSR (2004) and advocating membership for Ukraine and Georgia.

In April, NATO leaders pledged that Georgia and Ukraine would join the alliance one day, although they did not offer them a specific Membership Action Plan (MAP).

Russia warned that any serious move towards membership for the two countries would be seen as a threat to its own security and could end up destabilizing the South Caucasus.

But earlier Tuesday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel - who spearheaded opposition to NATO offering Georgia a MAP in April - called Russia’s recognition of the breakaway regions “unacceptable” and said that nobody should doubt whether Georgia and Ukraine should be given MAPs following the conflict.

NATO foreign ministers have been mandated to decide on the MAP question at a meeting in December.

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