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Russia: Moscow Warns Georgia, Ukraine; Brushes Off Abkhaz Mediation Offer

Russia has condemned moves by Georgia and Ukraine to join NATO, saying they could have serious repercussions.

The comments came as Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met separately on June 6 with his Georgian and Ukrainian counterparts in St. Petersburg on the sidelines of an informal summit of leaders from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS).

According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Medvedev warned Ukraine that it would be in breach of a friendship treaty if it joined NATO. He also said Russia plans to nearly double the price it charges Ukraine for natural gas at the start of next year.

Medvedev told Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili that pursuing NATO membership would hamper efforts to settle Georgia's conflicts with pro-Moscow separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"We felt [at the meeting] that President Saakashvili, indeed, wants to pay priority attention to the resolution of these conflicts," Lavrov said. "By the way, it was said -- at least it seems to me that he understands -- that the course toward NATO accession is not the key to a settlement."

Meanwhile, Javier Solana, the European Union's foreign policy chief, says the bloc wants a greater role in efforts to settle the crisis in Abkhazia. He made the remarks after talks in the main separatist city of Sukhumi on June 6 with Abkhazia's de facto President Sergei Bagapsh.

"We want to get [more deeply] engaged," Solana said. "You know, there are formats already in place. I hope very much that there will be formats in which everybody will participate in a constructive manner. The format may evolve in the future, but in any case, we are ready to get more engaged and more involved."

Medvedev, speaking during talks with Saakashvili in St. Petersburg, brushed off the idea of foreign mediation over Abkhazia, saying, "I think we can sort out our relations by ourselves."

Solana this week criticized Moscow for activities related to Abkhazia -- including the deployment of additional Russian troops there. He says the deployment has "raised the temperature" of the crisis.

Tensions over Abkhazia have soared since Moscow announced in April that it was establishing more formal ties with the separatists there.

compiled from agency reports

Copyright (c) 2008. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036. www.rferl.org

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