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Russian, French foreign ministers discuss Georgian rebel regions

RIA Novosti

21/05/2008 16:41 MOSCOW, May 21 (RIA Novosti) - Foreign ministers from Russia and France discussed the ongoing row surrounding Georgia's breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia during their meeting in Moscow on Wednesday.

Georgia is looking to regain control over Abkhazia and South Ossetia, after they broke away in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Russia's open support for the two breakaway republics has led to a rapid deterioration in relations between Moscow and Tbilisi.

Speaking with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, his French counterpart Bernard Kouchner said that a military solution for Abkhazia is 'impossible.'

The French diplomat said that Paris's position on the issue was unchanged and France still considers Abkhazia a part of Georgia.

The Russian Foreign Minister said in turn that further developments with Abkhazia depended solely on Tbilisi and the countries, which are pushing Georgia to join NATO.

"We fully understand that to prevent a military solution... the decision should be reached in Tbilisi and the capitals [of the countries], which are trying to drag Georgia into NATO," Lavrov said.

Georgia has been seeking NATO membership, backed by the U.S., ever since President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power in 2004 on the back of a bloodless revolution. At a NATO summit in early April, NATO powers voted against admitting Georgia to the alliance's Membership Plan, but said they would review the bid at the end of the year.

Located on a key Europe-bound route for Caspian oil and natural gas, Georgia has been at the center of a struggle for influence between the West and Russia since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

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