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No Arms for Georgia?

DPA news agency (ot)September 13, 2008

An arms embargo against Georgia would top the Russian agenda at international peace talks in Geneva on Oct. 15, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

Russian troops are still stationed on Georgian territoryImage: AP

"When deliberating there on how to prevent another aggression, the task of preventing Georgia's re-militarization will be paramount," Lavrov told a discussion group of Russian foreign policy experts, news agency Ria-Novosti reported.

He said the embargo should stand, "at least as long as (Georgian President) Saakashvili remains in power."

Russia is also likely to use its seat on the UN Security Council to seek backing in warnings to the United States not to rearm its Georgian ally.

But Moscow's refusal to discuss the status of Georgia's two breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and its decision to keep nearly 8,000 troops there has angered the West and raised red flags in Europe about the usefulness of peace talks.

Georgia-Russia talks planned

Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov
Lavrov is trying to stop the US from rearming GeorgiaImage: AP

President Dmitry Medvedev agreed on Monday to the talks with Georgia in Geneva as the last phase of a peace accord won by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency.

Russia pledged to withdraw Russian troops from checkpoints deep inside the former Soviet state to within the boundaries of Georgia's two breakaway regions, but declared 3,800 troops would remain in each region.

On the agenda for the peace negotiations, Medvedev said Monday, was the return of ethnic Georgian refugees to war-ravaged South Ossetia.

The UNHCR put that figure at 31,000 in a study released on Friday.

Independence for breakaway regions?

French President Sarkozy
French President Sarkozy negotiated the ceasefire agreement that stopped the warImage: AP

While peace talks were expected to address unfulfilled commitments to a Medvedev-Sarkozy ceasefire agreement that stopped the five-day war on Aug.12, Russia has drawn a line through talks on the status of Georgia's rebel regions -- the last point in the pact.

Medvedev has said Russia's recognition of the two republics as independent was "final and irrevocable."

"We aren't going to discuss the recognition or status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Lavrov reiterated on Friday.

Nicaragua is the only state to have followed Russia's lead in recognizing the separatist provinces, a move that infuriated Georgia and its Western allies.

But Russian media reported this week that Israel had ordered a ban on arms sales to Georgia out of fear that Moscow may retaliate by selling higher grade weapons to its enemies in the Middle East, such as Syria.

Russia said Israel supplied Georgia with spy drones used for reconnaissance ahead of the conflict.