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    Sergei Lavrov

    Russia to oppose U.S. attempts to prevent recognition of Abkhazia

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    Russia will resist any attempt by Washington to prevent the recognition of Abkhazia by third countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

    SUKHUMI, October 2 (RIA Novosti) - Russia will resist any attempt by Washington to prevent the recognition of Abkhazia by third countries, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday.

    "If our U.S. partners are set on preventing the recognition of Abkhazia's independence, we will resist attempts to impose opinions on sovereign states," he said, commenting on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remark that Washington would never recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

    Russia recognized the independence of the former Georgian republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in August 2008 after a five-day war with Georgia. The conflict began when Georgian forces attacked South Ossetia in an attempt to bring it back under central control.

    Nicaragua and Venezuela have also recognized the republics.

    Lavrov, who is on a visit to Abkhazia, said Russia had never attempted to force any country to recognize the former Georgian republics.

    "We have not launched any geopolitical projects - we were simply concerned over security and safety of the people [in both republics]," the minister said.

    He added that Moscow, for instance, would not trade the recognition of Abkhazia by Turkey for Russia's recognition of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus.

    "We are not willing to make any exchanges in the logic of the Cold War," Lavrov said, adding that both conflicts had different backgrounds and natures.

    The Russian foreign minister praised the EU-commissioned report on the Russia-Georgia war in August 2008, which has put the blame on Tbilisi for starting the conflict.

    "It is an objective report, which formally recognizes a well-known fact - the war was started by the Saakashvili regime," Lavrov said.

    The report, compiled by Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, along with 30 European military, legal and history specialists, said that Russia's response to the Georgian aggression was "legal," as the initial military operations were of a defensive nature. However, it also blames Russia for escalating the conflict with its subsequent push deep into Georgia.

    Lavrov reiterated Russia's readiness to provide, if necessary, military assistance to Abkhazia and South Ossetia under mutual assistance treaties signed last November.

    The minister also said that Moscow was hoping on the return of UN and EU observers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but only on the pre-condition that the West stops supporting Georgia's claims to these regions.

    The UN mission's mandate expired on June 16, and Russia vetoed a resolution authorizing a new mandate as it referred to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as part of Georgia. The EU mission's mandate expired on January 1, and Russia refused to extend it under the same format because it does not refer to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

    The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe urged Russia on Tuesday to give EU monitors unrestricted access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia before the end of the year.

     

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