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|User Info||Russia Backs Independence of Breakaway Georgian Areas ; entered at 2008-08-25 03:03:29|
Registered: 2008-02-25 New England
Russia considers recognising Georgian separatists|
MOSCOW (AFP) — Russian lawmakers were set Monday to consider recognising Georgia's two breakaway regions as independent, a move that would pour fuel on the fire in simmering relations with the West.
Both houses of Russia's parliament were to convene emergency sessions to examine appeals for recognition from South Ossetia -- where fighting this month prompted Russia to send in tanks and troops -- and Abkhazia.
Recognition would mean crossing a threshold for Moscow, which has backed the separatists in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since their break with Tbilisi in the early 1990s but stopped short of declaring them independent from Georgia.
The regions are internationally recognised as part of Georgia and a move to declare them independent countries would further dent relations with the West, which have plunged to their lowest point since the end of the Cold War over Russia's intervention and insistence on maintaining positions deep inside Georgia.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who negotiated on behalf of the European Union the peace plan which ended nearly a week of fighting, on Sunday announced a special European summit on the crisis in Georgia will be held September 1.
The summit in Brussels will discuss the future of relations between the EU and Russia and on aid to Georgia, Sarkozy's office said.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner had warned that Sarkozy might convene the emergency EU meeting if Russia failed to pull back its forces from positions in the former Soviet republic.
Russian troops poured into South Ossetia on August 8 to repel a Georgian attempt to regain control of the breakaway region. After smashing Georgia's small US-trained army in South Ossetia, Russian troops then pushed deep into Georgia, including through Abkhazia.
Russia withdrew tanks, artillery and hundreds of troops from their most advanced positions in Georgia on Friday, saying it had fulfilled all obligations under the French-brokered peace agreement.
But Russian troops still control access to the port city of Poti , south of Abkhazia, and have established other checkpoints around South Ossetia.
The six-point peace plan negotiated by France has been interpreted differently by Russia and the West, with Russia claiming it has the right to leave peacekeepers deep inside Georgia in a buffer zone.
France, Britain, the United States, NATO and other Western powers have demanded Russia pull back further.
An AFP reporter saw Russian troops holding at least six positions in an 80-kilometre (50-mile) area around Poti on Sunday.
Georgian officials said Russian troops were also maintaining eight positions in central Georgia around South Ossetia, including one a few kilometres from the strategic city of Gori on the main road into the region.
A US Navy destroyer carrying relief supplies arrived at a Black Sea port in Georgia on Sunday in a sign of support for its ally.
The USS McFaul dropped anchor off Batumi, 50 kilometres south of the Russian-occupied port of Poti, the first of three ships carrying aid to help Georgia deal with an estimated 100,000 displaced people.
A top Russian general on Saturday accused NATO countries of using humanitarian aid as "cover" for a build-up of naval forces in the Black Sea, heightening tension in the aftermath of the conflict.
A US coastguard ship passed through the Turkish straits on Sunday en route for Georgia while the USS Mount Whitney, the flagship of the US Mediterranean Sixth Fleet was to set sail for the Black Sea at the end of the month.
Analysts see Georgia's pro-Western path and determination to join NATO as key issues in the conflict, with Russia angered by the prospect of another neighbouring country being part of the Western military alliance.
Many would also view Moscow 's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as payback for the West's recognition of Kosovo earlier this year despite vehement Russian objections.
Abkhazia and South Ossetia have long sought recognition of their independence, or even incorporation into Russia, steps Moscow has so far refused.
But Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week signalled Moscow was ready to consider such a move, saying Russia would "make the decision which unambiguously supports the will of these two Caucasus peoples."
While a recognition motion could easily pass in the State Duma and Federation Council, the real decision lies with the Kremlin.
Last modified: 2008-08-26 11:46:28 by spiritoftruth