FRANCE/GEORGIA: US, EU step up diplomatic efforts as tensions remain high amid a shaky ceasefire between Russia...
- Title: FRANCE/GEORGIA: US, EU step up diplomatic efforts as tensions remain high amid a shaky ceasefire between Russia and Georgia
- Date: 15th August 2008
- Summary: (W3) TBILISI, GEORGIA (AUGUST 14, 2008) (REUTERS) FLAG FLYING OUTSIDE PARLIAMENT PARLIAMENT SESSION IN PROGRESS PARLIAMENT SPEAKER DAVID BAKRADZE ADDRESSING PARLIAMENT PARLIAMENT IN SESSION SCREEN SHOWING FINAL VOTE COUNT PARLIAMENT MEMBERS APPLAUDING
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- Duration: 00:00:27
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and French President Nicolas Sarkozy confirmed on Thursday (August 14) that the two countries shared the same view on the territorial integrity of Georgia and the need for Russia to continue its troop withdrawal from Georgian territory amid an EU-brokered fragile ceasefire.
Rice stopped off in southern France to meet Sarkozy, and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, en route to Tbilisi where she will meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Sarkozy and Kouchner led a diplomatic effort earlier this week to get Russia and Georgia to agree to a ceasefire after the neighbours went to war for a few days over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia - with Russia's use of overwhelming force causing huge concern for the US, its former Cold War foe.
"The United States stands strongly, and the President of France has just said, for the territorial integrity of Georgia. This is a member state of the United Nations whose internationally recognised boundaries have to be respected. There will be a process for dealing with what has been a difficult conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia but it precedes of course from UN Security Council resolutions that are already there so there shouldn't be any question about the territorial integrity of Georgia," Rice said after meeting Sarkozy.
In Moscow, President Dmitry Medvedev pledged Russia's support of the position of Georgia's separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions in talks of their future status, sharpening the confrontation with the United States over the future of Georgia.
Medvedev made the commitment during a meeting with Eduard Kokoity and Sergei Bagapsh, self-styled presidents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, who both flew to Moscow on an unannounced visit to seek Kremlin support as diplomatic efforts proceeded to end the week-old conflict.
"Please be aware that Russia's position is unchanged. We will support any decisions taken by the peoples of South Ossetia and Abkhazia...
and we support them at the United Nations, and under the Helsinki pact for Cooperation and Security in Europe; and we not only will support these decisions, but we will fully guarantee them both in the Caucasus and throughout the world," Medvedev told the two leaders.
Medvedev witnessed the two leaders sign a six-point plan brokered this week by France to end hostilities.
The Russian president also addressed a gathering of military officers involved in operations in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and justified Russia's actions which sparked the six-day conflict.
"Let us be in no doubt that the people of South Ossetia lived through genocide and that is how it should be referred to. To heal their wounds will take years, maybe tens of years, and the fact that the destruction of the entire people was stopped, was legal, inevitable and completely justified," Medvedev told the gathering at the Kremlin.
Medvedev said a legally-binding agreement on the non-use of force in the conflict zone should be signed by all parties under guarantees from Russia, the European Union and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
In Georgia, the parliament voted unanimously to leave the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a Russian-led grouping of ex-Soviet states, after accusing Moscow of starting the war.
Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan was the latest to join in the shuttle diplomacy, meeting with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at the presidential office in capital Tbilisi on Thursday.
Turkey, which neighbours Georgia and is a key energy hub for Caspian and Central Asian oil for Western exports, watched with alarm the fighting between Russia and Georgia.
The conflict over the rebel province of South Ossetia erupted last week when Tbilisi launched an offensive to retake the tiny territory, which threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s. Moscow responded with a massive counter-strike which routed Georgian forces.
Russia says 1,600 civilians died when Georgia attacked South Ossetia.
The figure has not been independently verified and Human Rights Watch researchers have cast doubt on it.
Moscow's General Staff said on Wednesday (August 13) it had lost 74 soldiers in the fighting, with 171 wounded and 19 missing. At least four warplanes have been shot down. It said on Thursday there had been no new deaths.
Tbilisi puts deaths on its side at over 175, with hundreds injured. That figure does not include South Ossetia.
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- Embargoed:30th August 2008 13:00