West asks Russia to revoke move on Georgia regions
Russia establishes closer ties with two breakaway regions of Georgia
Western countries called on Russia on Wednesday to revoke moves establishing closer ties with two breakaway regions of Georgia, which have helped spark a new crisis between the ex-Soviet states, according to Reuters.
But, after a U.N. Security Council discussion of the crisis, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin called the demand by the United States, Britain, France and Germany a "tall order" and said it was "not going to happen."
In an instruction last week, Russian President Vladimir Putin ordered his government to recognize some documents issued by separatist authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and cooperate with those regions on trade and other issues.
Relations took a further turn for the worse last Sunday when a pilotless Georgian reconnaissance drone was shot down over Abkhazia. Tbilisi blamed Russia but the Russian air force has denied responsibility.
In a statement issued as the council met, the four Western powers said they were "highly concerned" about the move on ties with the breakaway regions, adding: "We call on the Russian Federation to revoke or not to implement its decision."
Asked by reporters to respond, Churkin said, "This is of course a tall order and I think that they themselves understand that this is not something which is going to happen."
Georgia has accused Russia of "creeping annexation" of the rebel territories since they threw off Tbilisi`s control in fighting in the 1990s.
Churkin said Moscow`s moves did not constitute diplomatic recognition of the two regions and did not involve enhanced military cooperation with them.
"There is nothing anti-Georgian in those efforts," he said. "Our measures are strictly within the limits of international law, within the limits of legality," he said.
MORE U.N. POWERS URGED
The Western powers said many ideas had been put forward by Georgia and the West for defusing the crisis with Abkhazia. "Such steps could start, but should not end, with the exchange of declarations concerning the non-resumption of hostilities and the return of refugees," they said.
The Western statement took no view on the drone incident but called on both Georgia and Abkhazia to immediately approve an increase in the powers of the 130-strong U.N. observer mission in Georgia, known as UNOMIG.
That suggestion was supported by Georgian Foreign Minister David Bakradze, who attended the council meeting, which was requested by Georgia.
Churkin repeated Moscow`s assertion that the drone flight contravened a 1994 cease-fire agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia, which bans unannounced military activities, and also violated U.N. resolutions.
"It was a provocative military operation which the Abkhazian side had every ground to regard as threatening," he said. Abkhazia has said it shot down the drone.
Bakradze dismissed the claim. Video footage taken by the drone "clearly shows a MiG-29 military aircraft and the only country in the region possessing MiG-29 aircraft is the Russian Federation," he said. Radar records showed the plane coming from and returning to Russia, he added.
The Georgian minister said Russia`s strengthening of ties with bodies in Abkhazia and South Ossetia was tantamount to accepting the results of "ethnic cleansing." The 1992-93 conflict in Abkhazia killed 10,000 people and displaced 250,000 civilians before Georgian troops were forced out.
Churkin expressed regret that no Abkhazian representative had been invited to the council meeting.