Estonia calls for EU peacekeepers in Georgia's breakaway regions

Estonia said Monday the European Union should deploy peacekeepers to Georgia's separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in an international effort to head off conflict there.

"Peacekeeping there would be an appropriate task for the European Union," Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet said in a statement.

"States not ***directly*** linked to the conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia should be involved in the peacekeeping mission there," Paet said.

"We need international efforts to resolve the situation," he said.

Paet noted he had discussed the issue with his opposite numbers from Finland and Sweden, adding that "EU member states have a will and interest to find a sustainable solution to the crisis."

Abkhazia and South Ossetia have enjoyed de facto independence from Georgia since a bloody conflict in the early 1990s.

Tensions over both regions have soared in recent months since Moscow announced it was establishing formal ties with the separatists.

South Ossetia is currently in the spotlight after the deadliest clashes there in years, with Russian warning the region is close to "large-scale" military conflict.

Tbilisi has launched a diplomatic drive for the removal of Russian peacekeepers.

Georgia's pro-Western president, Mikheil Saakashvili, is embroiled in a row with Soviet-era master Moscow over his plans to join the Western military alliance NATO, which Russia vehemently opposes.

Estonia, which like Georgia broke free from the crumbling Soviet Union in 1991, joined NATO and the European Union in 2004.

It is a staunch supporter of Georgia's efforts to build close ties with the trans-Atlantic alliance and the 27-nation EU.

[Source: Agence France-Presse, Tallinn, 04Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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