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France: Russia Only Partly Met Georgia Obligations


Associated Press Writer

TKVIAVI, Georgia (AP)- Russia has only partially met its obligations under an EU-negotiated cease-fire, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared Friday as he toured damaged villages and spoke to Georgians displaced by the war.

He confirmed that Russia had met the Friday deadline to withdraw hundreds of troops from strips of land in Georgia outside the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. But Kouchner noted the cease-fire also stipulated that Russia must withdraw to positions held before the five-day war broke out Aug. 7.

“The withdrawal is complete on the first part of the agreement. Of course, the agreement is not complete at all, and it is not a perfect agreement,” Kouchner said at a refugee camp in the central city of Gori, which was heavily bombed in war.

Kouchner said further talks were needed to resolve disputes over the two separatist regions, which are still under Russian control.

But Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev, speaking on a visit to Kyrgyzstan, insisted Friday that Russia had fully met its pledges under the plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

“We have fulfilled all the obligations,” he said.

Besides touring ravaged villages near South Ossetia, Kouchner also visited a headquarters for EU monitors who are patrolling territory surrounding South Ossetia now that the Russians had withdrawn.

Georgian refugees are returning to their homes, but many houses have been destroyed by arson and vandalism that locals blame mostly on Ossetians.

“I’m glad that he’s come here so that he can see what happened with his own eyes. That way no one can erase it,” said Jimal Tibilashvili, 53, who fled with his wife during the war.

He returned Friday to his village of Tkviavi to find his home destroyed – and he plans to go back to Tbilisi, Georgia’s capital, because he fears unexploded ordnance.

A neighbor was injured by what appeared to be a cluster bomb. Kouchner stopped at a damaged police station – its windows shattered and debris strewn across the floor. Its commander said Russians forces and their local allies were both responsible for the wreckage.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations after the war and plans to keep 3,800 troops in each region – a much bigger presence than before the war.

Russia has also made clear it has no plans to pull troops out of portions of the breakaway regions that had been under Georgian control before the war, including Abkhazia’s Kodori Gorge, a broad swath of South Ossetia, and the town of Akhalgori.

“Akhalgori is South Ossetian territory,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told The Associated Press in Kyrgyzstan.

Kouchner said the issue of Akhalgori and the Kodori Gorge should be discussed at international talks being held Oct. 15 in Geneva on security in Georgia.

The United States, EU and NATO have sharply criticized Russia for recognizing the breakaway regions as independent nations, insisting that Georgia’s borders should remain intact.

German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said Friday that NATO could resume regular talks with Russia that were suspended after its invasion of Georgia. But the United States and other allies said it’s premature to rush into reconvening the NATO-Russia Council.

“We are not at that stage yet,” NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer told reporters.

The war erupted when Georgia launched an attack to regain control over South Ossetia, which broke from Georgian control in the early 1990s. Russian forces swiftly repelled the attack and drove deep into Georgia.

The war followed years of increasing tension between Russia and Georgia, whose pro-Western President Mikhail Saakashvili has cultivated close ties with Washington and pushed for NATO membership. Georgia straddles a key westward route for Caspian Sea oil and gas.

Associated Press Writer Leila Saralayeva contributed to this

report from Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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