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Georgia must stop hostile actions to improve relations with Russia

RIA Novosti

03/11/2006 18:34 BRUSSELS, November 3 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia must stop its hostile actions to normalize its relations with Russia, the Russian foreign minister said Friday.

Relations between the two former Soviet states have been strained in recent years over the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian secessionist republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The troops have been acting as a buffer between the antagonists since the end of bloody conflicts unleashed when the regions proclaimed their independence following the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Sergei Lavrov told a session of the Russia-EU Permanent Partnership Council that Georgia "must stop its hostile rhetoric and provocations, and implement all decisions of the [UN] Security Council and all agreements achieved as part of efforts to resolve the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia."

Although bloodshed ceased in the 1990s, shootouts and provocations have not been uncommon in the conflict zones. President Saakashvili, who came to power on the back of the 2003 "Rose Revolution," pledged to bring the self-proclaimed republics back into the fold. His defense minister also said Georgian troops will celebrate New Year's Day in the capital of South Ossetia, Tskhinvali.

Georgia deployed massive troops in the Kodori Gorge, controlled by Abkhazia in its lower section, last summer under the guise of a police operation there. Russia called it a provocation and demanded their withdrawal.

On October 13, the UN Security Council unanimously approved a Russian-sponsored draft resolution on Georgia, urging Georgia to refrain from provocative actions in Abkhazia and calling for an extension of the Russian peacekeeping mission in the region until April 15, 2007.

Georgia and Russia have been entangled in a diplomatic feud that erupted with the arrests of four Russian officers on spying charges in September. Although they were soon released, Russia has since cut transport and mail links to its mountainous ex-Soviet neighbor, cracked down on businesses allegedly related to the Georgian mafia, and deported hundreds of Georgians accused of residing in Russia illegally.

The move prompted Georgian and international human rights advocates to accuse Russia of pursuing an anti-Georgian policy.

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