Moscow Warns Washington Against Sending Monitors to Georgia

MOSCOW (NY Times)–A Russian Foreign Ministry official said Tuesday that any United States participation in the European Union’s monitoring mission in Georgia would be “extremely harmful,” and increase the likelihood that violence would flare up in the breakaway border regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

“The U.S. presence will sharply increase the likelihood of border provocations, given the United States’ role in last year’s events,” an unidentified diplomat told the Interfax news service. “As for U.S.-Russian relations, such a move will certainly not improve, but only worsen relations by adding a new issue.”

Georgia is eager for the United States to contribute to the European Union’s monitoring effort, a group of 246 unarmed civilian observers who travel along the boundaries of South Ossetia and Abkhazia reporting any violence. American officials say they have not decided whether to participate, but will consider the possibility if the European Union’s member states invite them.

No decision on whether to invite the United States will be made until autumn at the earliest, said Foreign Minister Carl Bildt of Sweden, which holds the union’s rotating presidency, at a news conference in Brussels on Monday.

The European Union’s mission is the only international group patrolling the conflict zones near South Ossetia and Abkhazia, breakaway Georgian regions that have been under Russian protection since last summer’s war. The mission, created during the French-brokered cease-fire agreement last August, was extended for another year on Monday. Russia and the separatist forces have blocked them from patrolling in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

This summer, observers from the United Nations and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe were forced to leave the country after Russia blocked their missions’ extension, arguing that international bodies should recognize the territories’ independence if they wish to continue working there.

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