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Europe

EU Calls on Moscow to End Military Campaign in Georgia

Amid claims from both sides that fighting in the Caucasus continued despite promises to lay down their weapons, French President Sarkozy urged his Russian counterpart to follow through on an order to end military action.

A Georgian military convoy of trucks with soldiers and cannons is seen at the outskirts of Gori, Georgia

The EU said it wants both Georgia and Russia to respect a ceasefire

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Russia was to stop military operations in Georgia, international news agencies reported on Tuesday, Aug. 12.

Medvedev declared that the safety of Russian peacekeeping forces and Russian citizens had been guaranteed during a televised meeting which was then reported on by news agencies in Russia.

"I have taken the decision to end the operation to force Georgian authorities into peace," Medvedev said. "The purpose of the operation has been achieved.... The security of our peacekeeping forces and the civilian population has been restored," he said at the meeting with Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov and the head of the military's general staff, Nikolai Makarov.

During a meeting Tuesday with his Russian counterpart at the Kremlin, French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged Russia to follow through on an order to end military operations in Georgia.

"What you are saying is good news," Sarkozy said after Medvedev informed him that he had ordered an end to Moscow's massive military operation in the neighboring ex-Soviet state. "It is now necessary to consolidate the cease-fire."

The EU's understanding

Sarkozy standing in front of a French flag

Sarkozy said he understands Russia's interest in the Caucasus

Sarkozy, who currently holds the European Union's rotating presidency, said he understood Moscow's desire to protect Russians living outside the country, but he added that the international community also had an interest in seeing Georgia's sovereignty respected.

"It's perfectly normal that Russia would want to defend the interests both of Russians in Russia and Russophones outside Russia," Sarkozy said. "It is also normal for the international community to want to guarantee the integrity, sovereignty and independence of Georgia."

France has pushed a three-point peace plan aimed at returning the situation in Georgia to what it was before hostilities broke out late last week.

Medvedev, however, said the Russian Defense Ministry had been given orders to resume military operations at any time if any violence would again be perpetrated against the population by South Ossetia.

A senior Russian military commander also said that while a cease-fire by the forces and a halt in their advance into Georgia did not mean that all operations would be scrapped.

"If we have received the order to cease fire, this does not mean that we have stopped all actions, including reconnaissance," General Anatoly Nogovitsyn said at a briefing.

Moscow demands Georgian president stands down

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov

Lavrov demanded Saakashvili's resignation

Moments earlier, at a press conference, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov called on Saakashvili to stand down.

"We believe that Mr. Saakashvili cannot be our partner in negotiations. It would be better if he went," said Lavrov during a press conference in Moscow with his Finnish counterpart and OSCE chair Alexander Stubb.

In military developments, Georgian authorities said Russia's air force had again attempted to bomb a strategic oil pipeline, Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, which connects the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean via Georgia.

There was no immediate word on whether the pipeline had been damaged. Georgian authorities said Sunday that Russia had tried to hit the pipeline but missed, while Russia denied trying to target it.

Fighting in Abkhazia

An unidentified fighter jet drops munitions near the Georgian town of Gori, on Friday, Aug. 8, 2008.

Georgia says Russia has bombed the pipeline region

Elsewhere, the breakaway region of Abkhazia said Tuesday its forces have now gained control of most of the Kodori Gorge, previously controlled by Georgia.

Sergei Bagapsh, president of the region located in north-western Georgia, said Abkhazian troops had taken the towns of Ashara and Tchalta and that the forces were advancing.

"The Abkhazian army continues to proceed successfully toward the border with Georgia," the pro-Moscow Bagapsh said, according to a report by the Interfax agency.

Until recently the upper Kodori Gorge region had been administered by Georgia, which citing international law insists that Abkhazia is part of its territory.

NATO meets to discuss situation

NATO logo on the Russian flag

NATO says it has no plans to meet with Russia

In Brussels, NATO diplomats were meeting to discuss the transatlantic alliance's response to the conflict in Georgia as Medvedev's statements came through.

The closed-door talks in Brussels involved NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, the ambassadors of the alliance's 26 member states, plus their colleague from Georgia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili had planned to attend the meeting but had to cancel her trip to Brussels at the last minute.

NATO officials say no date has yet been set for a separate NATO-Russia meeting that had been requested on Monday by the Russian ambassador to NATO, Dmitry Rogozin.

Georgia is a member of NATO's Partnership for Peace (PfP) program and has been promised full membership of the alliance at an unspecified later stage.

The prospect of the former Soviet republic joining the transatlantic alliance has infuriated Moscow.

NATO last week expressed "serious concern" about the unfolding of events in Georgia's separatist region of South Ossetia.

Saakashvili: biggest action in Abkhazia

Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili talks to the media as he visits the town of Gori, Georgia

Saakashvili said Moscow is attempting to take over Georgia

European diplomats met Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili in Tbilisi on Monday and convinced him to sign a draft cease-fire agreement.

Saakashvili called on the West to provide more than words of support and emergency aid to Georgia.

"So far we have got from them moral support and humanitarian aid, but we need more than that to stop this barbaric aggression," he said in a televised address Monday. "The majority of Georgia's territory is occupied."

Saakashvili remained defiant late Monday in the face of Russian attacks into Georgia and accused Moscow of committing "ethnic cleansing" in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia.

In an interview by telephone with US broadcaster CNN, Saakashvili said that the "biggest action" was currently in Abkhazia, where he alleged that ethnic Georgians were being forced out by Russian forces.

Map of the Caucasus region

"I directly accuse Russia of ethnic cleansing," he said.

Saakashvili said that the latest Russian airstrikes inside Georgia had taken place against targets between the already heavily shelled city of Gori and the capital Tbilisi.

"Georgia will never surrender," he said. "Democracy is stronger than any of their bombs, any of their tanks."

He said that Russia would not heed international calls for a cease-fire and withdrawal to previous troop positions "when it's just a call and nothing more." Georgians do "feel let down by world democracies," Saakashvili said.

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