The U.S. has again called on Russia “to reconsider” “some provocative steps” it had taken in respect of Georgia’s breakaway region Abkhazia.
“The Russian Government has taken some provocative steps with respect to Georgia, and specifically with respect to Abkhazia,” Sean McCormack, the U.S. Department of State spokesman, said at a press briefing on May 6. “Some of the steps that they have taken recently over the past couple of weeks have not been helpful to that situation. And we’ve actually asked them to take a look at those, withdraw some of the comments, and reconsider some of the actions that they have taken.”
“Nobody wants to see an escalation, a so-called escalation of tensions between Georgia and Russia. But I think that if you look back certainly at the most recent history here, you see really a pattern of Russian provocative actions towards Georgia, and specifically on the issue of Abkhazia.”
At a separate press briefing also on May 6, Dana Perino, a White House spokesperson, also said that “the Russian government has taken what we would call provocative action, which has increased tensions with Georgia.”
She said that those steps involved Russia’s “unilateral withdrawal” from Commonwealth of Independent States economic and military sanctions on Abkhazia; the April 16 presidential instructions increasing Russia's relations with Georgia's separatist regions and Russia's “unilateral decision to deploy a large number of Russian forces and equipment to the peacekeeping mission in Abkhazia.”
Perino also said that “a Russian aircraft shoot-down” of a Georgian unarmed, unmanned reconnaissance drone in Georgian airspace also constituted a provocative Russian step.
This is the first time a U.S. official has directly implicated Russia in shooting down the Georgian drone over Abkhazia on April 20. In a statement on April 23 the U.S. Department of State said it was deeply concerned by the shooting down “presumably” by a Russian MiG-29.
The White House spokesperson also said that the recent Russian moves “have significantly and unnecessarily heightened tensions in the region, and run counter to Russia's status as a facilitator of the U.N. Friends process on Abkhazia.”
She also said that in contacts with both the Russian and Georgian governments at the highest level, Washington had “firmly reiterated” support for Georgia's territorial integrity, and “strongly urged Russia to de-escalate and reverse its measures.”
“We have urged the Georgian government to continue to refrain from any military measures, and pursue a political settlement to its separatist conflicts,” she said. “We also call on Russia to actively support direct meetings between the Abkhaz authorities and the Georgian government in an effort to reduce tensions, and advance a permanent peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
Meanwhile, Georgian Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze, who is visiting the United States, met with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on May 6. The meeting came exactly two months after their previous meeting in Brussels.
“Among other things we of course discussed the situation in Abkhazia,” Burjanadze told Georgian journalists after the meeting. “We again received the full support and assurance that the United States firmly supports Georgia’s territorial integrity and that it will do its best to protect Georgia from any unfriendly steps.”