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Moscow concerned by Georgian buildup near S.Ossetia, Abkhazia

RIA Novosti

16/01/2009 14:50 MOSCOW, January 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia is concerned by the buildup of Georgian forces near the borders of the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

Russia recognized the two regions as independent states on August 26. Russia and Georgia fought a five day war on August 8-12 after Georgian forces had attacked South Ossetia in a bid to bring it back under central control.

"EU monitors working in areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been reporting a buildup of Georgian military units and special forces near the borders with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and our 'technical devices' have also recorded this. Provocations also occur sporadically. We are concerned by this," Lavrov told a news conference.

The Russian foreign minister also said Moscow had presented no obstacles to the OSCE mission in Georgia.

"Russia was ready to support, and was ready to do so back in December, a draft resolution extending the OSCE mission in Georgia," Lavrov said. "We were also ready to support a decision to send a separate OSCE mission to South Ossetia, if Tskhinvali agreed to this."

He added that while this had been proposed and worked out, not all the countries involved had agreed to the plan.

The OSCE mission had a presence in South Ossetia until Georgia's attack on the rebel province. The organization stated its desire to reinstate its monitors in South Ossetia after the ensuing Georgia-Russia war, but was denied permission by the South Ossetians, who accused the OSCE of failing to prevent the Georgian attack.

Lavrov also defended Russia's decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, citing "unambiguous" signals from Tbilisi.

He said that statements made after the August conflict by a number of Western countries pledging that the Georgian Army would be rearmed were "the last straw."

"We then resolved that there was no other way to ensure both the security and the existence of the South Ossetians and the Abkhazians without recognizing their independence and without signing a treaty on friendship, cooperation, and mutual assistance with them," Lavrov said.

Lavrov also reiterated that Russia saw no analogy between the West's recognition of Kosovo in February 2008, and Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"As concerns Kosovo, Belgrade never broke UN Resolution 1244, whereas in the case of Georgia, Tbilisi constantly failed to fulfill its obligations under the peace deals agreed on after Georgia unsuccessfully tried to take South Ossetia and Abkhazia by force at the start of the 1990s," he said.

Meanwhile, the Georgian Foreign Ministry demanded on Friday the deployment of international observers and peacekeeping police forces to Abkhazia and South Ossetia following reports of the murder of a Georgian policeman earlier in the day in the village of Knoveli.

The officer was the 11th Georgian policeman to be killed in an attack from the area adjacent to the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict zone over the past two months.

"Georgia has repeatedly stressed that to provide security guarantees and prevent terrorist attacks it is necessary to send international observers into the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and deploy as soon as possible international peacekeeping and/or political missions to the occupied territories," the Georgian ministry said in a statement.

Georgian diplomats have blamed Russia for the attack.

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