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Russia's President Says Breakaway Regions Not Likely to Return to Georgia

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Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday it is unlikely that the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will rejoin Georgia after a week of violent clashes. He offered the prediction just before Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili announced that he had signed a truce agreement with Russia. Emma Stickgold has this report for VOA from Moscow.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and German Chancellor Angela Merkel met in the Black Sea coast city Sochi not far from Georgia and its breakaway provinces to discuss the unfolding events of the last week.

Mr. Medvedev said Georgia was not likely to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back into the fold. He said that after what happened the past seven days, it is unlikely Ossetians and Abkhazians will ever be able to live together with Georgia in one state.

All week, Russian troops have been driving Georgian forces out of the regions, and Mr. Medvedev said Russia will leave it up to the separatists to decide their future status.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel echoed the words of U.S. President George Bush. She said Russia's response to Georgia's attack on South Ossetia was "disproportionate," and said that Russian troops staying in the area is "not sensible."

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met for five hours with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tblisi Friday to bring what a U.S. Department of State official called "clarifying explanations" regarding the French-brokered truce. The Georgian president said he signed a cease-fire agreement with Russia.

Secretary Rice emphasized that all Russian troops must return to the positions they held before the conflict began.

An emotional Saakashvili said he will "never, ever surrender" in the showdown with much-larger Russia.

The recent violence was the worst to break out since South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in 1992.

Separatists in Abkhazia took control of most of the province from Georgia in 1993.

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