The United States Monday joined other members of Group of Seven industrial powers in endorsing European mediation in the Russia-Georgia conflict. A senior U.S. diplomat has arrived in Georgia to try to assist the process. VOA's David Gollust reports from the State Department.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and her colleagues from the G-7 grouping have made a joint appeal on Russia to accept a Georgian cease-fire offer and to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of its smaller neighbor.
Rice and the foreign ministers of Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Britain and Canada discussed the crisis in a telephone conference call, endorsing the mediation effort of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, representing the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE.
State Department Deputy Spokesman Robert Wood said the conference call was one of some 90 conversations Secretary Rice has had with foreign leaders since Friday in a bid to stop the fighting.
Rice is understood to have spoken on multiple occasions during that span to Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, among others.
Wood said the focus is exclusively on diplomacy and that there has been no discussion of U.S. military intervention or provision of military aid to Georgia.
The United States says it is prepared to facilitate the return of Georgia's 2,000 - troop contingent from Iraq under a long-standing agreement, but Wood rejected Russian criticism that this amounts to an active U.S. role in the hostilities.
"First of all, we're not assisting in any conflict," said Robert Wood. "We obviously have an agreement with the Georgians to help move their troops out of Iraq back to Georgia. I don't see that we're part of this conflict. What we're now calling on the Russians [to do] is to stop their aggression and agree to a mediation effort."
Wood said the State Department's chief expert on the Caucasus region, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matthew Bryza, arrived in Tbilisi Monday to join international mediation efforts.
He said the United States has also begun to deliver humanitarian supplies to Georgia. An initial $250,000 aid commitment from the U.S. Embassy in Tbilisi was quickly exhausted Monday, but he said plans were being made to bring in emergency items from Germany.
The State Department said the United States helped evacuate about 170 U.S. citizens from Georgia via Armenia. Family members of U.S. Embassy personnel have also departed, though the U.S. mission in Tbilisi remains open.