Georgia: We will never use force to retake rebel regions
Georgian President President Mikheil Saakashvili pledged before the European Parliament Tuesday that his government would never use force to retake Russian-backed rebel regions.
The pro-Western leader, who fought a five-day war with Russia in August 2008 over the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, invited Moscow to resolve differences peacefully through dialogue.
Loudly applauded by Euro MPs, Saakashvili urged the European Union, which brokered a ceasefire agreement, to facilitate talks.
"We take today the unilateral initiative to declare that Georgia will never use force to restore its territorial integrity and sovereignty, that it will only resort to peaceful means in its quest for de-occupation and reunification," Saakashvili told the 736-member legislature in Strasbourg, France.
Gergia will not strike "even if the Russian Federation refuses to withdraw its occupation forces, even if its proxy militias multiply their human rights violations," he said.
However, Saakashvili said, his government reserved the right of self-defence "in the case of new attacks and invasion of the 80 percent of the Georgian territory that remains under control of the Georgian government."
He added: "I am, ladies and gentlemen, ready for a deep and comprehensive dialogue with my Russian counterpart."
Russian forces poured into Georgia in August 2008 to repel a Georgian military bid to retake Moscow-backed South Ossetia and occupied swathes of the country before mostly withdrawing inside the rebel regions.
In an embarrassment for Moscow, only Venezuela, Nicaragua and the tiny Pacific island state of Nauru have so far followed Russia's move to recognise the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
© 2010 AFP