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Transatlantic phone lines buzz with talk of Georgia

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Thursday, August 6
Two telephone conversations were held on August 4, between the US and Russian Presidents and the Georgian President and US Vice President.

Barack Obama and Dmitry Medvedev discussed the situation in the Caucasus in their conversation, held on the Russian side’s initiative. “During the call the Presidents discussed the situation in Georgia and the need to decrease tensions in the region,” says a statement released by the White House. “President Obama reiterated the importance of working through established crisis management mechanisms such as the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and underscored the need for international monitors,” it says.

According to the White House the Presidents also discussed the need to move forward quickly on agreements reached at the July summit in Moscow. “In particular, the Presidents reaffirmed their commitment to complete negotiations on a follow-on agreement to START by December of this year,” its statement says. However a Kremlin statement on the same call says that two Presidents “exchanged views on lessons to be learned from the Georgia crisis that took place one year ago.” The White House and the Kremlin nevertheless agreed that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev had called his U.S. counterpart, Barack Obama to wish him a happy birthday. The US President turned 48 on August 4.

Meanwhile another phone conversation was held between the US Vice President and Georgian President on Tuesday. Joe Biden expressed concern over the recent escalation of tensions in Georgia’s conflict zones and called on all sides to refrain from aggressive actions that might stimulate destabilisation in the region. Biden reiterated US support for Georgia’s democracy.

“Vice President Biden called Georgian President Saakashvili today to discuss the current situation in Georgia. Biden expressed concern about the recent escalation in tensions and emphasised that all parties should avoid taking destabilising actions. He also underscored the importance of having an objective international monitoring mission with access to both sides of the boundary line. Vice President Biden reiterated US support for Georgia’s democracy,” the White House said in a statement. The call came hours after Obama had also discussed the rising tension in the region in his conversation with Medvedev.

Speaker of the Georgian Parliament Davit Bakradze says that such statements and conversations are crucial for Georgia because only international support and reactions keep Russia from carrying out another large scale aggression in Georgia. Bakradze is sure that if such statements had been made a year earlier Russia would not have dared to do what it did last summer.

Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian Minister of Foreign Affairs, back from his holydays, has also responded to the late night phone conversation of Saakashvili and Biden, stating that it was in the US’s interest to clarify what is happening in the conflict regions at the moment.

“It was a very important conversation, one which two leaders of strategic partner states should have. They talked about the reasons for the recent provocations in the conflict zones. They shared some ideas about what should be done to discharge the current situation and how to force Russia meet the international commitments it took last year,” Vashadze said.

Davit Bakradze also commented on Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov’s recent statement that Russia had not intended to recognise the ‘independence’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia before the war. He said that during the past year Russia has spent a lot of money to try and persuade other states to recognise the independence of separatists, and as it has not achieved this it now says that it does not care if any other states recognise the puppet regimes or not.

“This is just false; I remind you of Belarus, or the Central Asian states last year, who unanimously declared that they would never recognise the independence of those entities. Russia tried, did not get what it wanted and now says it never even made any attempt to persuade others to do its bidding,” Bakradze said yesterday.