Georgian leader demands withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers at UN

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NEW YORK, September 22 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addressed Friday the United Nations General Assembly in New York with a demand for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from 'frozen conflict' zones in his country.

The UN General Assembly decided September 13 to include the issue of post-Soviet frozen conflicts in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan on the agenda of its 61st session.

Russia has maintained a peacekeeping presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the early 1990s, when both regions declared their independence from Georgia following the collapse of the Soviet Union and a bloody conflict with Georgia.

"In maintaining its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia wants to prolong the conflict, which could cause it to spread to other countries," Saakashvili said.

The Georgian president offered his own 'road map' for the resolution of the conflicts, envisioning the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping contingents and demilitarization of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, with mediation from the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the European Union.

Saakashvili said Georgia would use peaceful means to resolve the conflicts, but act persistently and without delays. He also said the South Caucasus state was ready to hold negotiations with Russia on the issue, but only on a multilateral basis, and with the participation of international bodies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday that the attempts to change the existing settlement format for the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict were counterproductive. He said peacekeepers from the Commonwealth of Independent States, in close cooperation with UN observers in Georgia, were helping to maintain peace and stability in the region.

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