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September 4, 09

NEWS / United States Urges Russia to Withdraw Forces from Georgia

By Merle David Kellerhals Jr.
Staff Writer

Washington – The United States called on Russia to honor its commitment to withdraw the majority of its forces from two breakaway regions in Georgia — Abkhazia and South Ossetia — and permit “unhindered humanitarian access” to the areas.

“A year after the August 2008 war, the situation in Georgia remains a matter of grave concern,” U.S. Chargé d’Affaires Carol Fuller said at an Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) council meeting in Vienna September 3. Restoring security and stability in Georgia is critical, she said.

In August 2008, Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war over two breakaway provinces, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, that have since been recognized by Russia as independent states. In a July 23 speech in Tbilisi, Vice President Biden said that “We will not recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.” The only other nation to recognize the breakaway regions as independent states has been Nicaragua.

The United States has urged that the world not recognize the breakaway regions as independent states, Biden said, and “we call upon Russia to honor its international commitments clearly specified in the … cease-fire agreement, including withdrawal of all forces to their pre-conflict positions, and ultimately out of Georgia.”

Russia still maintains a sizeable military presence in both breakaway regions despite a cease-fire agreement that calls for their removal. The Russians have also objected to European peace monitors in Georgia.

The United States supports expansion of unarmed, international monitors throughout Georgia and the disputed regions to promote peace and stability.

“Russia has stationed thousands of Russian forces in both regions and posted hundreds of Russian border guards along the administrative boundary lines,” Fuller said in remarks before the OSCE Permanent Council. “Now, Russia intends to deepen military and economic ties still further, according to plans announced by Russian Prime Minister [Vladimir] Putin on his August 12 visit to the Abkhazia region.”

Fuller said that these acts by the Russians, as well as the plight of thousands of civilians in the region, are matters of great concern. “Human rights abuses in the separatist regions are serious and ongoing,” she said.

There have been reports of abductions, detentions, robberies, and home demolitions, especially against people of Georgian ethnicity, Fuller said. She called on all sides to respect the human rights of all individuals in the conflict areas.

Despite Russia’s characterization of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, it does not relieve Russia of its high-level commitments, Fuller said. The OSCE, United Nations and European Union have coordinated meetings to resolve these issues and to convince Russian officials to honor their commitments made under the agreements of August 12, 2008, and September 8, 2008, following the conflict with Georgia, she said.

“We urge Georgia to pursue vigorously political and economic reforms, continue to engage the opposition in constructive dialogue, and investigate reports of mistreatment of opposition members,” Fuller said.




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