Georgia Can ‘Forget’ Territorial Integrity, Says Russia

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–Russia’s foreign minister declared Georgia could "forget about" regaining it’s the provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the so-called separatist regions, reported the Associated Press.

"One can forget about any talk about Georgia’s territorial integrity because, I believe, it is impossible to persuade South Ossetia and Abkhazia to agree with the logic that they can be forced back into the Georgian state," Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters as Russia’s president met in the Kremlin with the two leaders. The commen’s and meeting were a clear sign that Moscow is considering absorbing South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice was headed to Georgia to ask the U.S. ally to to sign a cease-fire agreement with Russia that includes apparent concessions to Moscow but preserves Georgian borders, a U.S. official said Thursday.

The pact fleshes out a French-brokered agreement, worked out this week, giving Russian peacekeepers the express right to patrol beyond South Ossetia.

The official, speaking on condition of anonymity because the pact is not finalized, said there are important clarifications still to be made and the U.S. would support more powers for the Russian peacekeepers only if they were limited, well defined and temporary.

"The United States of America stands strongly, as the president of France just said, for the territorial integrity of Georgia," Rice said after meeting with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

In Washington, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said he saw no need to invoke American military force in the war between Russia and Georgia but warned that U.S.-Russian relations could suffer lasting damage if Moscow doesn’t retreat.

"The United States spent 45 years working very hard to avoid a military confrontation with Russia," said Gates. "I see no reason to change that approach today."

The latest developmen’s presented a huge challenge to the EU-sponsored cease-fire agreement designed to end seven days of fighting. The accord had envisioned Russian and Georgian forces returning to their original positions.

Lavrov on Wednesday also sent a decisive message to the United States, but saying that the US must choose between its “real partnership” with Russia and what he called the US’s “special project” of Georgia, reported the Pravda newspaper.

“We realize and everyone writes about that Georgia today is a special project of the US. We understand that the US worries about the fate of this project,” the minister added. “But here we have either the notion of prestige about this %u218virtual project’ or partnership, which requires collective actions to be taken,” the minister said.

“The US administration claims that illegal armed groups pillage the people on the outskirts of Gori [a town in Georgia] and that the Russian military do not take any measures. If something like that is confirmed ‘s on the outskirts of Gori, Tskhinvali or anywhere else ‘s we will react in the most serious way,” the minister said.

“The Russian Armed Forces and the Russian peacemakers have orders from the Supreme Commander-in-Chief–the president of Russia–to observe all combat laws. Civilians must be protected against infringemen’s of human life and dignity. We will look into every message saying that it is taking place and we will not let this happen,” Lavrov said.

He also said that in assessing the recent developmen’s, the US was neglecting to condemn Georgia for bombing S. Ossetia and leveling its capital Tskhinvali.

About 100 Russian investigators continue to work in the capital of South Ossetia, which was virtually leveled as a result of the Georgian aggression. The officers are investigating the murder of Russian citizens and Russian peacemakers.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev ordered the gathering of concrete evidence to prove that the Georgian authorities had committed acts of genocide against the citizens of South Ossetia.


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