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Saakashvili 'cautiously optimistic' over Russia pullout deal

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Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Tuesday that he expected the situation in his country to stabilize with the upcoming withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers.
TBILISI, September 30 (RIA Novosti) - Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on Tuesday that he expected the situation in his country to stabilize with the upcoming withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers.

The European Union is set to start its monitoring mission in Georgian buffer zones near Abkhazia and South Ossetia on Wednesday, and Russia has agreed to pull all its remaining peacekeepers out of the area by October 10.

"Georgia intends to fulfill all its obligations, and hopes that the other parties aiming to stabilize the situation will do the same. We are cautiously optimistic," Saakashvili told reporters after a meeting with the EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana.

A senior EU official said earlier on Tuesday that more than 300 European Union staff serving in the Monitoring Mission, comprising civilian monitors and support staff, were on the ground, and had begun deploying to field offices in western and central Georgia.

Solana said earlier on Tuesday: "The objective of this mission is to allow Russian forces to withdraw."

Moscow launched a five-day operation to "force Georgia to accept peace" after Tbilisi attacked South Ossetia on August 8 in an attempt to regain control over the republic, which split from Georgia in the early 1990s. A number of Russian peacekeepers and a reported 1,600 South Ossetian residents lost their lives during the conflict.

Russia's response to the Georgian attack was called disproportionate by a number of Western powers. On August 26, Russia drew further criticism when it recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian republic, as independent states. So far, only Nicaragua has followed suit.

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