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NATO Calls for Return to Former Status Quo in Georgia


As Russia announced a halt to military action in Georgia, NATO members called for a return to the status quo before the conflict - and say the crisis will not hurt Georgia's chances of joining the alliance. Lisa Bryant has more from Paris.

Following a meeting of NATO ambassadors in Brussels, the alliance's secretary general, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, told reporters both sides needed the return to positions they held before August 6, when fighting broke out in the separatist region of South Ossetia and spread to other parts of Georgia.

The ambassadors have also called for Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity to be respected.

"A ceasefire was clearly not considered enough," said de Hoop Scheffer. "It is important that all parties go back to what is called the status-quo ante - that is, the status quo as existed on the 6th of August."

The NATO secretary general joined other international calls for both sides not to interfere with humanitarian assistance being sent to the region.

"There is an urgent need for the very serious humanitarian situation," he said. "And that goes for both sides. And it is absolutely necessary, and there is a very great urgency, there is full access for humanitarian organizations and others to the displaced persons, to the victims, to the wounded."

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has ordered a halt to military action, although Georgia says Russian forces continued bombing in some areas on Tuesday. France holds the rotating European Union presidency and its president, Nicolas Sarkozy, was in Moscow Tuesday trying to find a solution to the crisis.

Georgia's membership bid to NATO was rejected in April, but with the provision it could likely join at a future date. Georgia's NATO ambassador told reporters in Brussels he believed that message of delay was taken by Russia as a "green light" to attack.

Some observers believe the fighting may have hurt Georgia's NATO dreams, since its membership could draw the alliance into future conflicts in the region. But De Hoop Scheffer said Georgia's chances of joining NATO remain unchanged.

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