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British PM Says West Won't Be Held Ransom To Russia

August 31, 2008

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown has said the West will not be held to ransom by Moscow and vowed a "root and branch" review of relations between the European Union and Russia.

Writing in the British weekly "The Observer," Brown sent a message to Russia: "If you want to be welcome at the top table of organizations" such as the Group of Eight leading industrialized nations, Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, and World Trade Organization, "you must accept that with rights come responsibilities."

Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 following Georgian troops' attempt to restore control over the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Moscow has halted a five-day offensive into Georgia but failed to withdraw all its troops from deep inside Georgia. On August 26, Russia recognized South Ossetia and another separatist Georgian region, Abkhazia, as independent states.

Brown said he would argue at the September 1 EU summit in Brussels that Russia should accept Georgia's territorial integrity and withdraw its troops to the positions they occupied before the military action over South Ossetia.

He also urged NATO to reevaluate its relationship with Russia and intensify its support to Georgia and other states that may face "Russian aggression."

The British prime minister said Russia's actions in Georgia had underlined the urgent need for Europe to find alternative sources of oil and gas to avoid "an energy stranglehold."

Brown said he had warned Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in a telephone call on August 30 "to expect a determined European response" on the issue of Georgia.

In an apparent conciliatory gesture, the Kremlin quoted Medvedev as saying during the conversation that Moscow was in favor of the deployment to Georgia of additional monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

The OSCE has said it would send up to 100 observers to Georgia. Some 20 observers are currently on the ground.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin acknowledged that Russia was concerned about calls for sanctions or other harsh measures from some EU governments. Speaking to Germany's ARD television, Putin urged EU leaders to show "common sense" at the summit.

Georgia announced on August 30 it would tighten visa requirements for Russian citizens. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Eter Kamareli said the new visa regime would take effect on September 8.

Tbilisi announced on August 29 that it was cutting diplomatic relations with Moscow. But it said consular ties would be maintained.

with agency reporting



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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