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U.S. Official Says No 'Carte Blanche' For Russian Peacekeepers

August 20, 2008
By Ahto Lobjakas

BRUSSELS -- The terms of the cease-fire between Russia and Georgia do not give Moscow a free hand to maintain an indefinite military presence on Georgian territory outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a senior U.S. diplomat has told RFE/RL.

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Kurt Volker, said that the cease-fire does not give Russia a "carte blanche." He said Russia must withdraw from Georgian territory outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia once a monitoring mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) is in place.

"There is, in the short term, a recognition that there should be an area where Russia can conduct some additional military activities. but that is a temporary measure until the OSCE monitors are in place and can do the job that [Russian forces] would otherwise have to do," Volker said.

"And then that is to be followed, in turn, in principle by a peacekeeping force. So this is not a carte blanche."

The OSCE currently has 29 monitors in Georgia. It eventually expects to field a total of 100.

Volker also said the United States will "absolutely" go on training and reequipping the Georgian Army. He said as a democratic and sovereign country Georgia has "a right to have a military -- and we should all be working on how we can help them rebuild after the damage that has been inflicted."

The U.S. ambassador said the alliance's plans to one day take in Georgia and Ukraine remain on course, and that both countries should get NATO Membership Action Plans. NATO foreign ministers are tasked to return to the issue in December.

Volker said NATO's decision in December would be affected by developments in the interim. "What happens between now and then, including Russia's actions, will make a difference," he said.

He also said NATO expansion is not attack on Russia, but about "reinforcing productive human development in Europe." As such, it is "not about Russia," Volker said. He said NATO is not looking for conflict and sees "a lot of common interests with Russia."

But, Volker said, Russia must also "play by the rules of the 21st century" and respect the territorial integrity of its neighbors.

Volker said NATO's commitment to defend its members is a "solemn" undertaking no one should misunderstand. "We mean it."


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

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