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Russian decision sparks outrage

By Messenger staff
Wednesday, August 27
“Russia will meet the demands of the people of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, respecting the will of the population of these regions,” President Medvedev commented after signing an appeal by the Duma on August 26 which urged recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Georgian politicians described the Russian move as an expected step and stressed the necessity to maintain close relations and consultations with Western states, and prepare for responsive steps, although at present all hopes for an adequate response to Russia from Western politicians have been dashed.

The decision of the Duma sparked what could be called the beginning of a new stage in relations between Russia and the EU and Russia and the US, which EU states will discuss on September 1, 2008 at a special session of the Council of Europe. Meanwhile, Chancellor Merkel and President Bush expressed their hope that Russia will respect the territorial integrity of Georgia.

“European leaders will have to clarify and seriously reconsider their relations with Russia on September 1”, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared on August 25, adding that the prevailing tensions should be resolved through peaceful mechanisms in which EU and OSCE observers should play a crucial role. According to Kouchner, the September meeting will address the abovementioned issue and also the last point of the six-point ceasefire agreement, which will determine the future fate of the conflict zones.

Probably Russia will not have an easy time in September, as the head of the OSCE, Foreign Minister of Finland Alexander Stubb, has already accused Russia of ethnic cleansing of Georgians in South Ossetia. “Russian soldiers forcibly evicted Georgians from their homes, it’s a fact I am an eyewitness of”, Stubb stressed.

The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Louis Maria de Puch, criticized Russia by demanding its “immediate withdrawal from the territory of Georgia and compliance with all points of the agreement.” Puch also denounced the occupation of strategic positions by Russian forces as “inappropriate measures from the security point of view”. Washington was also critical of Moscow, demanding that Russia meet all points of the agreement and not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The special representative of the White House, Tony Frato, also pointed to the necessity of complying with the agreement, stressing “the presence of the Russian forces on those territories of Georgia is not envisaged according to the agreement. The problems of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be resolved by the international community and UN, not by one particular country,” Frato concluded.

“I am deeply concerned by today's appeal to President Medvedev by the upper and lower houses of Russia's Parliament to recognize the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries,” George W. Bush stated earlier on August 25. “The internationally recognized borders of Georgia should be respected and the US will continue to support Georgia, defending its sovereignty,” he added. Chancellor Merkel also expressed her concern over the decision and hoped that Medvedev would not sign the resolution. Merkel urged Russia to immediately withdrawal its forces from Georgia. G7 has commented, sharing the sentiments of the above statements entirely. As a representative of the US State Department stated in an interview with Reuters, “the US, Japan, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, France and Canada jointly ask Russia not to recognize the separatist regimes and respect the territorial integrity of Georgia.”

Patriarch of Georgia Ilia II has called on Russia to make a reasonable decision. The Georgian Patriarch's Administration condemns the decision of the Duma and calls on the Russian President and Prime Minister to veto it. ''By taking this step you will encourage separatism which will affect your country as well,'' says a statement released on August 26.