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Russian walkout

May 19, 2009

Russia and Georgia have resumed talks, despite a breakdown that threatened to derail discussions aimed at preventing armed conflict between the two countries.

Russian troops ride atop armored vehicles
Russia and Georgia fought a brief war in 2008Image: AP

The European Union and other mediators expressed worry when Russian delegates walked out of the Geneva talks late Monday. Yet everyone was back at the table on Tuesday, according to a United Nations official.

Russia had been upset that pro-Russian separatists from the breakaway region of Abkhazia were not present. Abkhazia had reportedly boycotted the talks, which are being mediated by the EU, the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

A man holds up a large Georgian flag
Georgia's upset by the walkoutImage: AP

All of the parties, including Abkhazia and South Ossetia have agreed to continue the talk, which are aimed at easing tensions between the two countries. Russia and Georgia briefly fought a war over the rebel regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia last summer. Abkhazia boycotted the talks to show their displeasure after the United Nations described the region as Abkhazia, Georgia.

Georgia upset by walkout

The walkout angered Georgia, which accused its larger neighbor of trying to "blackmail the international community."

"This shameful step is yet another violation of the European Union-brokered ceasefire agreements and of the latest UN resolution," Georgia's Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria told AFP.

Another Georgian diplomat accused the Russians of leaving in an "awkward and insulting manner."

US called walk-out a "coordinated action"

The United States said it was "dismayed" at moves by the Russians and separatist allies to spurn talks on Georgia, calling their actions a coordinated effort to undermine the discussions.

"The fact that the walk-out occurred before any substantive discussions began clearly signals a coordinated effort to undermine the Geneva talks," State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said.

US State Department seal
The US state department was dismayed by the actionImage: AP GraphicsBank

However, the State Department later issued a revised statement dropping the sentence accusing the three parties of staging a "coordinated effort to undermine" the discussions. It gave no explanation.

Tensions remain high

Acrimony between Russia and Georgia has not died down, despite international efforts. Earlier this month, Georgia accused Russia of encouraging an army mutiny. Also, a previous meeting with South Ossetian officials was called off because the sides could not agree on where to hold it.

Russian troops marched into Georgia in early August 2008 to fend off a Georgian assault on South Ossetia. Russian forces briefly occupied large parts of Georgia before withdrawing into South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow recognizes as independent states.

The international community is eager to bring stability to the volatile south Caucasus region, which serves as an important transit point for gas and oil.

Editor: Nick Amies