Russia promises full pullout from Georgia within a month

The French president said on Monday that Russia has promised to pull all troops out of Georgia, but not South Ossetia or Abkhazia, within one month.

Nicolas Sarkozy, speaking after talks with his counterpart Dmitry Medvedev near Moscow, also said that under the new agreement Russia has pledged to withdraw from observation posts located between the Georgian towns of Poti and Senaki within a week.

He said if the new plan is fully implemented, "there is no reason why meetings between Russia and Europe [on a new strategic partnership deal], postponed from September, cannot be resumed in October."

The EU postponed partnership talks in protest against Russia's recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states and its military presence in Georgia, which followed Tbilisi's August 8 attack on South Ossetia.

Medvedev said Russia will not go back on its decision to recognize the regions.

"We made this choice ourselves. It is final and irreversible," he said.

However, he said international discussions on the provinces' status would go ahead, as stipulated in a peace deal brokered by Sarkozy last month.

"International discussions stipulated in point six of the Medvedev-Sarkozy plan signed on August 12, 2008, will begin on October 15, 2008, in Geneva," he said.

Medvedev also said Russia has drafted an agreement on establishing diplomatic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"There will also be other agreements, under which we will provide them with economic, humanitarian and military support, no one should be in any doubt about this," he said.

Medvedev said Russia's full withdrawal from Georgia will come not more than 10 days after the European Union deploys at least 200 observers in the 'buffer zone' near South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which under the new agreement is set to happen by October 1.

However, before the pullout takes place, Russia must receive from Georgia "legally binding documents on non-use of force against Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Medvedev said.

Sarkozy said he had handed the Russian leader a letter from Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili pledging not to use force against the regions.

Medvedev also rejected accusations from Western powers that Russia has broken its pledges made in the six-point peace plan.

"I believe Russia is fully implementing the plan. However, I cannot unfortunately say the same of the Georgian side."

He said Georgia is actively working to restore its attacking potential, and is being aided by the U.S. He also accused Washington of complicity in Georgia's ground and air offensive against South Ossetia, which claimed the lives of a large number of civilians.

Saakashvili "decided to solve an old, complex problem, with historical elements, in one movement, through the use of military force. In this, he received the blessing of one country," Medvedev said.

[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 08Sep08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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