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Rasmussen calls on Russia to reverse Abkhazia and South Ossetia recognition

By Mzia Kupunia
Tuesday, July 5
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen reiterated the Alliance’s call towards Russia to withdraw its recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. Speaking to the Rossiyskaya Gazeta newspaper ahead of the NATO-Russia Council session in Sochi, Rasmussen said the alliance “fully supports” Georgia’s sovereignty and its territorial integrity in its internationally recognized borders.

Answering a question of a Russian journalist whether Rasmussen agrees with an opinion of some analysts that an “emotional reaction” of the alliance to the events of August 2008 turned out to be “hasty”, Rasmussen replied that “NATO is not an emotional organization.” “The decision that NATO made after those events, was strictly based on our long term principles,” Rossiyskaya Gazeta quoted NATO Secretary General as saying “We keep those principles to this day. NATO fully supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” he added.

Rasmussen reiterated that Russia and NATO have differences over Georgia. “It is a very positive fact that Russia and NATO after a short break have come to a conclusion that they need each other. The summit in Lisbon has proved this. At that meeting we agreed that we should work in the direction of strategic partnership,” NATO Secretary General told the Russian newspaper “We have agreed that Russia- NATO council should become an all time forum on all problems. Now we live with Lisbon Summit spirit,” he added. However, Rasmussen added that NATO still does not agree to Russia’s approach to the Georgian conflict. “However we have no right to let these differences paralyze our relations as far as cooperation is the best course for NATO and Russia,” the Secretary General of the alliance told the journalist.

Earlier on May 11, speaking about NATO-Russia relations at Chicago University, Rasmussen said NATO has a “great opportunity” to build security not only in Europe but across the entire Euro-Atlantic area “as NATO and Russia set aside old differences and work more closely together.” He named terrorism, nuclear proliferation, cyber crime and piracy as some of the “new global threats” affecting both nations. However, Rasmussen said that the Alliance and Russia “still have disagreements of principle issues such as Georgia.” “NATO insists on full respect for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and we call on Russia to live up to her international obligations in that respect. We must not shy away from discussing these disagreements,” he stated.

Georgia’s permanent representative to NATO, Grigol Mgaloblishvili commented on Rasmussen’s statement, saying that the Georgian side met NATO officials ahead of their visit to Russia. “We met the Secretary General as well. We talked about all those challenges and all those problems that the Georgian side is facing. We discussed all those threats that are coming from Georgia’s occupied territories. So the representatives of the Alliance and the Secretary General are well informed,” Mgaloblishvili said, adding that Georgia is a subject of “fundamental difference” in relations between the Alliance and Russia.