Georgia to cut diplomatic ties with Moscow - East Valley Tribune: Nation / World

Georgia to cut diplomatic ties with Moscow

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Posted: Friday, August 29, 2008 7:27 pm | Updated: 12:10 am, Sat Oct 8, 2011.

TBILISI, Georgia - Georgia severed diplomatic ties with Moscow on Friday to protest the presence of Russian troops on its territory. Russia said the move would only make things worse.

With European Union leaders set to discuss on Monday in Brussels how to deal with an increasingly assertive Russia, Prime Minister Vladimir Putin angrily warned Europe not to do America's bidding and said Moscow does not fear Western sanctions.

Russia has faced isolation over its offensive in Georgia and stands alone in its recognition of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia. The U.S. and Europe have closed ranks in condemning Russia's actions but are struggling to find an effective response.

EU leaders are not expected to impose sanctions on Russia at their summit but may name a special envoy to Georgia to ensure that a cease-fire is observed, French and Belgian officials said.

Georgia's diplomats in Russia will leave Moscow on Saturday, the Foreign Ministry said. Georgia's leadership followed through on a call from lawmakers who voted late Thursday to break off ties with Russia.

Russia criticized the move, saying it would not help mend ruined ties.

Both nations' consulates, however, will remain open - important for the many Georgian citizens living in Russia. Under the 1963 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, breaking off diplomatic ties does not automatically lead to a cut in consular relations.

The diplomatic break will require Georgia and Russia to negotiate through third countries if they negotiate at all - a sticky situation because Russia sees Western nations as biased in Georgia's favor. Georgia, which had pushed for a greater role for international organizations, could see it as an advantage.

"We found ourselves in an awkward situation when a country militarily invading and occupying our country, then recognizing part of its territories, is trying to create a sense of normalcy" by maintaining diplomatic relations, Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said in Sweden.

But the move may bring little practical change, because there were few signs of any productive diplomacy even before the war. Trade between Russia and Georgia is also minimal, following Russian bans in 2006 on Georgia's major exports - wine and mineral water - and other products.

Only a fraction of foreign investment in Georgia comes from Russia, while a Russian ban on direct flights to and from Georgia was lifted this year but flights were halted again as the war erupted. Overland travel is already severely restricted because of impassable mountain ranges, and main routes linking Georgia and Russia pass through South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The five-day war broke out Aug. 7 when Georgia attacked South Ossetia in a bid to wrest control from separatists. Russia sent in tanks, troops and bombers, and has maintained a powerful military presence.

Kurt Volker, the U.S. Ambassador to NATO, said Georgia shouldn't be blamed for sparking the crisis.

"It wasn't a Georgian attack on Tskhinvali that launched all of this," Volker said in an interview with the British Broadcasting Corp., referring to South Ossetia's capital. "It was Russian pressure over a long period of time and then shelling coming from South Ossetians."

Still, he said Georgia's attack on South Ossetia "was not a wise thing to do because as we've seen Russia was prepared to launch a major invasion."

Russia further angered the West and startled its supporters by recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Tuesday.

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili applauded the lack of global support for recognition of the breakaway regions.

"Today it is a fight between the civilized and the uncivilized worlds," Saakashvili said on visit to Poti, a Black Sea port still shadowed by Russian forces who have set up positions nearby.

Putin said Russia defended the lives of its citizens during the war in Georgia.

"Such a country will not be in isolation," Putin said in an excerpt of an interview with Germany's ARD television shown on state-run Russian television.

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