U.S. Official: Russia’s Ties with Neighbors Issue of Concern

135.jpgRussia’s relations with its neighbors remain “an issue of considerable concern” as Russia often approaches them “with a zero-sum mentality, particularly when it comes to those countries, such as Georgia and Ukraine,” Daniel Fried, the U.S. Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs said on May 24.

 

In his testimony before the Helsinki Commission, Fried noted that the U.S. was concerned by “apparently political interference with infrastructures” as in the case of the closing of Russia’s only legal border crossing with Georgia last year.

 

But he also noted that Russian-Georgian relations, after a period of extreme tension, had shown “tentative signs of limited improvement.”

 

“Moscow could do much more to normalize relations. Russia maintains the economic and transportation sanctions it imposed against Georgia last fall. Likewise, it continues to take actions that call into question its professed support for Georgia’s territorial integrity by supporting separatist regimes in Georgia’s South Ossetia and Abkhazia regions… We encourage Russia to play a more constructive role and to use its influence with the separatists to advance a peaceful resolution of each conflict in Georgia,” Fried said.

 

He also said the Russia had “almost fulfilled” its 1999 OSCE Istanbul commitments to pull out military bases from Georgia, “except for the need for Russia to reach agreement with Georgia on the status or withdrawal of the Russian presence at the Gudauta base.”

 

Tbilisi is demanding that the Gudauta military base in breakaway Abkhazia be monitored regularly by an independent international party to verify its closure by Russia, as envisaged by the 1999 OSCE Istanbul treaty.

 

Moscow claims that it has already closed the base and insists on only a onetime monitoring mission of the base.

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