Georgia to sever diplomatic ties with Russia

Georgia is recalling its embassy staff in Russia and cutting off diplomatic ties with Moscow in response to its recognition of two breakaway Georgian regions, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze said Friday.

Vashadze said the government is implementing a parliament resolution passed a day earlier, which included a call for the government to sever ties with Russia, the Caucasus Press news agency reported.

A Georgian Foreign Ministry spokesman said his country will withdraw its staff from Moscow on Saturday, but a consul will remain in Russia.

Russian news agencies have cited Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Andrei Nestrenko as criticizing the move and saying it will not benefit bilateral relations.

"We regret that the Georgian side has taken this step," Nesterenko said.

"The possible end of diplomatic relations with Georgia is not the choice of Moscow, and Tbilisi will have to bear the entire responsibility," said the diplomat.

"We must maintain contacts in the sphere of interests of average citizens," he said, adding that it will take a lot of efforts to restore bilateral relations.

Georgia's announcement comes on the heels of its decision to withdraw all but two diplomats from its embassy in Moscow after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev decided to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states earlier this week.

The two regions broke from central Georgian rule during wars in the early 1990s.

Georgia, a former Soviet republic and a staunch U.S. ally, has long been at odds with Russia over the two breakaway regions and its own bids to join NATO and the European Union.

Earlier this month, Georgia sent in troops to reclaim South Ossetia, triggering a military counter-offensive from Russia. The conflict ended with a ceasefire agreement between Tbilisi and Moscow brokered by France.

[Source: Xinhua, Tbilisi, 29Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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