No war against Abkhazia: Georgia (Lead)

May 8th, 2008 - 10:04 pm ICT by admin  

RIA Novosti
Tbilisi, May 8 (RIA Novosti) Georgian defence minister David Kezerashvili Thursday denied that the country planned to wage war against its breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We are not going to attack or start a war against anyone. I do not think Georgia looks like a country that has gone mad and suddenly decided to wage a war against Russia,” Kezerashvili told Russian journalists.

Tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi have escalated rapidly since Russian leader Vladimir Putin called for closer ties between Moscow and Abkhazia and South Ossetia in mid-April.

Kezerashvili said Georgia’s armed forces were currently deployed at their bases, adding that Tbilisi was not increasing troops near the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-South Ossetian conflict zones.

“We built bases for our troops, kitted them out with uniforms and footwear. We bought modern armaments and are switching to NATO standards,” he said.

Russia, which has administered a peacekeeping contingent in Georgia’s breakaway regions since conflicts in the 1990s, dispatched additional troops to Abkhazia recently to deter what it calls a planned Georgian military offensive. Tbilisi accuses Russian troops of siding with separatists.

The number of its peacekeepers was raised to 2,500 from 2,000 and Russia said it could increase it further should Georgia build up its troops in the region.

“All this is being done for the sake of preserving peace and preventing bloodshed,” the Russian defence ministry said earlier, adding that all Russian actions were in line with a peacekeeping mandate.

Kezerashvili said Georgia and Russia would not be enemies if Tbilisi joined NATO.

He denied Abkhazia’s reports that Abkhazia allegedly downed two Georgian spy plane Sunday, but said Abkhazia is Georgia’s territory and Georgian planes are entitled to fly over the region, but that on that day, there were no flights.

Earlier this week Georgian reintegration minister Timur Yakobashvili told the European Parliament in Brussels that Georgia was “very close” to war with Russia.

Commenting on the statement, Russia’s envoy to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin, said: “Georgia is extremely close to a war, but Georgia is itself to blame for this.”

Abkhazia, along with South Ossetia, broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and some 3,000 in Georgian-South Ossetian hostilities.

Georgia is looking to regain control over the two de facto independent republics.
RIA Novosti

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