Russia's Putin urges Georgia talks without 'third party' US
Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said Monday Georgia must negotiate with its rebel republics of Abhkazia and South Ossetia without the involvement of a third party, Interfax news reported.
Putin was commenting on statements by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton Monday of Washington's "steadfast" support for Georgia's territorial integrity and criticism of Russia's "occupation" of the rebel republics.
"Some believe that it (South Ossetia) is occupied, others believe it is free," Putin was quoted as saying by the Interfax news agency.
"That is the subject of a dialogue between the people of Georgia and South Ossetia. This dialogue must be carried out without referring to a third party."
"They must not look for a solution elsewhere," Putin said.
Clinton, on a visit to Tbilisi, also urged Moscow to abide by a ceasefire agreement that stipulates its forces must return to positions held before the 2008 Georgia-Russia war over the rebel regions.
A Georgian military assault on Moscow-backed South Ossetia in 2008 saw Russian forces pour into the country.
After the war, Russia recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, a move that has been followed by only a handful of countries.
The two rebel regions issued statements Monday after Clinton's visit denying they were under Russian occupation and denouncing her use of the word.
© 2010 AFP