West awaits Medvedev word on recognizing South Ossetia, Abkhazia

Georgia and its Western allies waited on Tuesday to hear if Russian President Dmitry Medvedev would recognize Georgia's separatist regions as independent, a move Washington has warned would be unacceptable.

In a sign of the fragility of the ceasefire declared after Russian troops marched into the pro-Western state, Georgian and separatist forces were in a tense standoff over a disputed village on the fringes of breakaway South Ossetia.

The two houses of Russia's parliament adopted non-binding resolutions on Monday urging Medvedev to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and the second Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia.

But the Kremlin leader issued no response to the unanimous votes in parliament.

U.S. President George W. Bush said he was deeply concerned by the parliamentary votes. He urged Russia's leaders not to recognize the regions, which broke with Tbilisi after the collapse of the Soviet Union, as independent.

Senior officials of the world's leading industrial nations, the Group of Seven, also expressed alarm at the move.

Russian tanks and troops poured into South Ossetia on Aug. 8 after Georgia launched a barrage against the breakaway regions capital. Russian forces then drove deep into Georgia proper.

Russia has pulled out the bulk of its forces, but it has alarmed the West by stationing some troops deep inside Georgia's heartland on what it has called a peacekeeping mission.

The West says the troops give Moscow a stranglehold over vital ports and transport links and are a breach of a ceasefire deal. Georgia hosts a Western-backed oil pipeline which supplies about one percent of the world's crude.

Black Sea Manoeuvres

The United States is Tbilisi's staunchest big-power ally and on Tuesday U.S. navy vessels were bound for Georgia bringing relief supplies -- a deployment that has irked Moscow.

Russia media reported that the 'Moskva' missile cruiser, which earlier this month took part in the attack on Georgia, put into the Black Sea again for what the navy described as a routine training exercise.

The White House announced that U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney would visit Georgia early next month as part of a European trip. Cheney has in the past been an outspoken Kremlin critic, accusing Russia of blackmailing its neighbors.

Georgian and South Ossetia forces were facing off late on Monday in the village of Mosabruni on the edge of the breakaway region, though there was no fighting.

Georgian police said the village was not part of separatist-controlled territory, but the separatists accused Tbilisi of grabbing the village unlawfully.

The atmosphere was "very tense", Kakha Lomaia, Secretary of Georgia's National Security Council, told Reuters.

Kosovo Parallel

Russian lawmakers said Medvedev should recognize the two regions because they had a stronger claim to independence than Kosovo from Serbia and could no longer live within a state that sent in soldiers to try to restore its control.

Under Russian law, it is the prerogative of the president and not parliament to recognize foreign states.

Diplomats say the Kremlin may stop short of granting recognition, in part because it fears encouraging separatist sentiment in its own restive regions. But they say Medvedev could instead use the threat of recognition as a bargaining chip.

The Russian troop pullback has in places revealed a trail of destruction where Russian forces have been destroying military infrastructure. They say that was necessary to prevent Tbilisi from committing new acts of aggression.

A Reuters reporter at the Senaki military base near the Black Sea coast, which was occupied by Russian troops, saw deep craters in the runway, ransacked buildings and the blackened wrecks of T-72 tanks and armored personnel carriers.

The base, the country's first built to NATO standards, was only completed a few months ago and was intended as the showpiece of Georgia's bid to join the alliance.

Medvedev Warns Moldova

Medvedev warned ex-Soviet Moldova on Monday against repeating Georgia's mistake of trying to use force to seize back control of a breakaway region.

Russia sent peacekeepers to Moldova in the early 1990s to end a conflict between Chisinau and its breakaway Transdniestria region and is trying to mediate a deal between the two sides.

"After the Georgian leadership lost their marbles, as they say, all the problems got worse and a military conflict erupted," Medvedev told Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin at a meeting at the Russian leader's Black Sea coastal residence at Sochi.

"This is a serious warning for us all. It is in this context that we should view the question of Transdniestria resolution," the Russian leader said.

Russia is currently trying to forge a deal between Chisinau and Transdniestrian separatists which would keep the rebel region as part of Moldova but give it broad autonomy.

The Russian-brokered deal would also allow Transdniestria to leave Moldova should the former Soviet state decide to join their ethnic kin in EU member Romania.

[Source: Hot News Turkey, 26Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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