MOSCOW (Reuters) – Russia will reject a call by the United States for international mediators to take a bigger role in defusing a row with Georgia, Interfax news agency quoted a Russian diplomatic source as saying on Friday.
A surge in violence over the last few weeks in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia — where Russia and Georgia are locked in a tense standoff — has worried Western states which fear it could trigger a wider conflict.
Tbilisi recalled its ambassador from Moscow after Russia said it sent its warplanes into Georgian airspace earlier this week to ward off a Georgian attack on South Ossetia.
Georgia’s parliament on Friday unanimously appealed for world governments “to condemn Russia’s aggressive actions…and to support Georgia’s peaceful initiative for conflict resolution”.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili told Reuters on Friday: “The situation is really precarious.”
He said the “problem is that it looks like some people in Moscow no longer treat us as an independent country and this is really dangerous for us but also for Moscow.”
Asked if recalling the ambassador to Russia was effectively cutting ties, he said: “No, no. Georgia could never break her ties with Russia, even if we wanted to and we don’t want to.”
Saakashvili was speaking to Reuters at a two-day European integration conference in Yalta in the Ukraine.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, on a visit to U.S. ally Georgia on Thursday, called for a more intensive international effort to resolve the conflict. But the idea was quickly rebuffed by Russia.
“We don’t see any reason for anyone’s mediation in settling relations,” Interfax quoted the diplomatic source as saying. “We have direct dialogue with Georgia and contacts are continuing.”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reinforced the message at a meeting in Moscow with South Ossetia’s separatist leader Eduard Kokoity.
“Various advisers from very far away should first of all respect those people who live in the region,” he said in televised remarks.
Lavrov said he hoped Tbilisi would take steps “to calm the situation down … so people can thrive and not live in conflict and be subject to all kinds of threats.”
Both separatist regions broke away from Tbilisi’s rule in wars in the 1990s and now run their own affairs with backing from Moscow.
Russia accuses Tbilisi of aggression against the separatists. Georgia’s pro-Western government says Moscow, its master until the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union, is annexing part of its territory to punish it for wanting to join NATO.
Givi Targamadze, head of the Georgian parliament’s defense and security committee, told journalists Georgia must be ready for military action.
“The reality we are facing now is evidence of the fact that Russia is not just preparing provocations, but intends to start military actions in the nearest future,” he said.
“In this case our response will also be a military one. Russia should know that Georgia is ready for that.”
Moscow is competing with the United States and European Union for influence over Georgia. The country hosts the only pipelines pumping gas and oil from the Caspian Sea to world markets without going through Russia.
Rice said a group including Britain, France, Germany, Russia and the United States, should meet at the level of senior foreign ministry officials, or higher, to find a solution. U.S. officials said such a meeting could be held within a month and they wanted senior Georgian and Abkhaz officials to take part.
The Russian foreign ministry said it wanted Georgian troops to withdraw from the upper part of the Kodori gorge, the only part of Abkhazia which is under Georgian control.
“Only after this will the resumption of dialogue be possible,” it said in a statement.