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NATO meets on escalating Georgia-Russian tensions

NATO meets on escalating Georgia-Russian tensions
Published: April 30, 2008
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BRUSSELS: NATO ambassadors discussed escalating tensions between alliance hopeful Georgia and Russia on Wednesday ahead of a meeting with Moscow's NATO envoy.

The regular meetings come after Russia on Tuesday sent extra peacekeeping troops to Georgia's breakaway Abkhazia region to counter what it called Georgian plans for an attack, prompting the European Union to accuse Moscow of stoking tensions.

A NATO spokesman said Georgia would be discussed at both meetings, but declined further comment.

On Monday, NATO ambassadors met Georgian presidential envoy David Bakradze in Brussels. They reiterated support for Georgia and criticized Russian warnings about the possible use of force.

In a further show of support, the 26-nation military alliance also announced plans for the envoys to visit Georgia before the end of the year.
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The mounting crisis between the two ex-Soviet neighbors has alarmed Georgia's Western allies, who see Georgia as a future NATO member and a vital energy transit route.

After discussing Georgia with EU ministers in Luxembourg on Tuesday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov reiterated that Moscow would use military force if Georgia attacked Abkhazia or a second Georgian separatist region, South Ossetia.

European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana said after the talks that the Russian deployment of extra peacekeepers in Abkhazia was unwise at a time of rising tensions and reiterated EU support for Georgia's territorial integrity.

On Wednesday, Dimitrij Rupel, foreign minister of EU president Slovenia, said the European Union wanted to see the situation resolved in a "tolerant and diplomatic manner."

"After yesterday's talks I believe that this will happen," he told a news conference in Ljubljana.

Reporting by David Brunnstrom in Brussels and Manca Ulcar in Ljubljana.

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