Lavrov Says Karabakh Can’t be Compared to South Ossetia

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Responding to a speech made in Kiev by British Foreign Secretary David Miliband, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov Thursday dismissed criticism of Russia’s actions in Georgia, adding that other post-Soviet conflicts, including Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be compared with the situation in S. Ossetia and Abkhazia.

One of Miliband’s calls concerned the need for "the end of the empire and peaceful settlement of conflicts in post-Soviet space, including in the Dniester region and Nagorno-Karabakh."

"Here I would like to ease David’s worries: in neither case is Saakashvili the principal player. In neither case are there deranged leaders striving to settle the conflicts from the position of strength," Lavrov said referring to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, whom Lavrov has been criticizing since the beginning of the crisis.

Lavrov characterized the admonitions made by the British representative about democracy being suppressed in Russia as ridiculous. "We know what the Saakashvili regime is, and how his Western patrons forgive him of everything: acts of provocation against peacekeepers, dispersal of rallies, attacks on the opposition, and a clampdown of the broadcasts of all Russian television channels since the start of his aggression against South Ossetia," the minister stressed.

Lavrov stressed that he did not agree with Miliband’s view that NATO was "an anchor of stability, democracy and economic development". "I have not heard about NATO’s being engaged in democratizing, but maybe the times are changing," he said.

"I shall leave this without comment, as well as the assertion that this is the price of division of Europe," Lavrov added. "It is the totally unjustified and unfounded expansion of NATO that leads to this division," the minister said.

The Russian foreign minister also drew attention to a number of factual errors in Miliband’s information; the latter said that Russia had blocked ports, tunnels and other infrastructure facilities in Georgia.

"God only knows where he got it from–all the more so that there is evidence from journalists, international representatives and civilians," Lavrov noted. "And when they say that they do not wish to dwell on who started it first, we believe that prudery and hypocrisy are out of place here with regard to those who were attacked in the middle of the night," he said.

Lavrov stressed that Russia was committed to the six "Medvedev-Sarkozy" principles, but in their original form. "The six ‘Medvedev- Sarkozy’ principles are their common position which was addressed to the parties in the conflict, namely to Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia; Russia is not a party in the conflict," he stressed.

The minister expressed regret with the fact that, after the principles were signed, "constant redrawing of the text began". As a result, he said, Saakashvili signed the letter addressed to him by Sarkozy, "which has no legal or practical bearing" [as received]. The letter itself was not shown to Russia, and Moscow only agreed to the message to make it easier for Western partners to win Saakashvili over.

Speaking of the principles, Lavrov also noted gross distortion of the final point, "ensuring the security of South Ossetia and Abkhazia". "Saakashvili signed the text which speaks of the security of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," he added. "This, however, is no longer of any importance because from now on, their security will be safely ensured by their own forces and by Russian peacekeepers," Lavrov stressed.

The Russian Foreign Minister answered the questions posed by his British counterpart during his speech. In particular, the latter urged Russia to recognize Georgia’s territorial integrity. "We have long recognized it, despite everything, even despite the violation of the right of autonomous areas to determine their status," he recalled.

"It is the Georgian leaders, starting from Gamsakhurdia, who undermine Georgia’s territorial integrity. As for Russia, it is absolutely committed to the principle of territorial integrity of its neighbors," he added.

Miliband’s second call concerned the need to clarify the attitude of the Russian Federation to the use of force. "We have stated on many occasions that we are against the use of force in resolving conflicts, be it in Yugoslavia, Iran, Iraq and the Middle East, [or] the Caucasus region," he stressed.

The British foreign secretary also asked for Russia’s attitude toward long-term economic interests be clarified. "He suggests punishing us but in such a way that the interests of Britain and other Western countries are not hurt, which means that they will take [Russian] gas but on the terms that they will themselves explain to Russia," was Lavrov’s interpretation of his words.

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