NATO, Georgia talks may cause new conflict - Russian MP

NATO discussions with Georgia on the accession of the South Caucasus state to the military alliance only encourage Tbilisi to plan new military actions, a senior Russian lawmaker said on Monday.

At a summit in Bucharest in April, NATO members decided to postpone offering Georgia and Ukraine the chance to join the NATO Membership Action Plan, a key step toward full membership, but promised to review the decision in December.

The military alliance also decided last month to create a joint NATO-Georgia commission similar to that already in place with Ukraine, and reaffirmed their plans to eventually accept Georgia as a NATO member

"Holding further talks on the issue of Georgia's NATO membership encourages the current Georgian authorities to employ force in order to restore territorial integrity," said Konstantin Kosachyov, the head of the State Duma's international affairs committee.

NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, heading a delegation of envoys from all 26 members of the Western military alliance, arrived on Monday in Georgia to discuss plans for Tbilisi's future NATO membership and meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

Russia and Georgia fought a five day war in August after Georgian forces had launched an attack on South Ossetia. Two weeks after the conclusion of Moscow's military operation to "force Georgia to accept peace," Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

The West heavily criticized both the recognition of the rebel regions, and what it called Russia's "disproportionate' response to the Georgian attack. Russia and NATO have since frozen cooperation.

Kosachyov also said that the Russian delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe may recommend to the Kremlin that Russia quit the organization if the delegation's powers are suspended.

"If a decision is made to suspend the powers of the [Russian] delegation, I will recommend to the government not to remain in the Council of Europe," Kosachyov said.

[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 15Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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