The White House is criticizing Russia for a series of actions that have raised tensions with Georgia over the fate of two Georgian breakaway regions - Abkhazia and South Ossetia. VOA's Paula Wolfson has details.
White House Spokeswoman Dana Perino says tensions between Russia and Georgia are high, and she makes clear the administration feels most of the fault lies with Moscow.
"The Russian government has taken what we would call provocative actions which have increased tensions with Georgia over its separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," she said.
Perino says Russia downed an unmanned Georgian spy plane last month in Georgian air space, a charge Moscow has denied. She also points to an increased Russian military presence along the administrative border separating Georgia and Abkhazia. And she points to Moscow's withdrawal from sanctions imposed on Abkhazia by a group of former Soviet republics.
Both of the Georgian separatist regions are considered pro-Russian. Perino makes clear that instead of pushing their separatist ambitions, Moscow should act as a mediator between the separatists and the government in Tblisi.
"These steps have significantly and unnecessarily heightened tensions in the region and run counter to Russia's status as a facilitator of the UN friends process of Abkhazia," she added.
All this comes amid word of a possible increase in ties between Russia and the self-declared separatist government in Abkhazia. A Russian newspaper quotes a leading separatist official as saying Moscow should take over security responsibilities in that breakaway region.
At the same time, a Georgian official responsible for relations with the separatist territories is in Brussels for talks with European Union officials. State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvilli says his government is trying to avert war.
White House Spokeswoman Perino warns all sides to watch their words, and keep the situation from getting totally out of hand.
"We have urged the Georgian government to continue to refrain from any military measures and pursue a political settlement to its separatist conflicts," she said. "We again call on the Russian government to reiterate its commitment to Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, to reverse its measures in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and cease further provocations."
She says the United States has been in contact with Georgian and Russian officials at the highest levels. But she says President Bush has not yet engaged in any telephone diplomacy on the matter.