Russia to remove military bases from Georgia in 2005

A peaceful solution should be the only way to resolve conflicts between Georgia and  seceded republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

Russia may start removing its military bases from Georgia later this year, said Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday in Moscow. He and his Georgian counterpart Salome Zurabishvili gave a press conference to highlight the results of Russian-Georgian talks. According to Mr. Lavrov, "the sides have made significant progress and new arrangements have been made with regard to the in-country period and the pullout of Russian military bases from Georgia." Mr. Lavrov specified that the arrangements primarily concerned the removal of heavy equipment and the conversion of the military bases into antiterrorist centers to be used by both countries.

Russian Foreign Minister also said that other issues had been also discussed during the talks. In particular, the two sides discussed issues pertaining to settlement of conflicts between Georgia and Abkhazia, and between Georgia and South Ossetia. Mr. Lavrov said that the sides had agreed that a peaceful solution should be the only way to resolve the conflicts in line with resolutions adopted by the UN and OSCE.

Russian Foreign Minister said that Moscow supported the decision to send out the OSCE mission to Georgia to boost the efficiency of Georgian border troops. "We hope that the OSCE mission in Georgia will be able to increase the efficiency of Georgian border troops till the end of 2005, in other words, till the mission's activities in Georgia are over," said Mr. Lavrov.

In her turn, Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili spoke about "real progress made in the talks on issues relating to the military bases and the border delimitation." She said that the sides had agreed to step up their efforts for making more detailed arrangements for all the stages apart from general principles and a timetable for the withdrawal of the bases. At the point Mrs. Zurabishvili cited a French proverb about the devil that was in the details. Georgian Foreign Minister pointed out that she "must see all the details" prior to making a report on the agreement to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili. She also delivered a  letter containing President Saakashvili's proposals for peaceful solution of the conflict in South Ossetia.

Georgian Minister for Economic and Structural Reforms Kakha Bendukidze said he did not understand why the the withdrawal of Russian military bases was such a sensitive issue in the relationship between Russia and Georgia. Mr. Bendukidze was confident potential military bases of NATO on the Georgian soil could not pose any threat to Russia. "Russia should and can become a leading member state of NATO," said Mr. Bendukidze. According to him, all the necessary prerequisites to the creation of a big northern alliance are in place now. The alliance has its roots in common Greco-Roman culture.

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Author`s name Olga Savka