Sarkozy tells Russia to end 'threats' against Georgia

7th October 2011, Comments 0 comments

Visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy told thousands of cheering Georgians on Friday that Russia must stop making "threats" and intimidating its neighbour after their brief 2008 war.

"France sees Russia as its friend, as a strategic partner. But to restore confidence, threats, intimidation, threats and attempts to destabilise (the situation) are fully unacceptable," Sarkozy said in a speech on Tbilisi's Freedom Square.

Sarkozy -- who brokered the peace deal to end the five-day war -- stressed on his first return to Tbilisi in three years that he was committed to "the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity" of Georgia.

Georgia accuses Russia of violating the agreement by not pulling its troops back to pre-war positions and "occupying" the rebel provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Moscow recognised as independent states after the 2008 conflict.

Sarkozy said Russia must pull its troops from those territories, in line with Moscow's "word and honour."

"Against all strategic logic and contrary to undertaken commitments, significant military forces are still stationed and were reinforced at your door, on the other side of the dividing lines," he said.

The strong comments are sure to irritate Russia, which says its troops in the area were invited by new sovereign states that wanted help policing their borders.

But in firm remarks that echoed the two sides' recent split over action in Libya and Syria, Sarkozy noted that Russia must stop the Soviet-era practice of bossing sovereign territories that once answered to Moscow.

"Everyone must admit that the Soviet Union does not exist anymore and that policy of spheres of influence is not intended to succeed it," said Sarkozy.

"Everyone must admit that Georgia, like any other country, has the right to define its path and to freely choose its friends and its alliances. It must be free to express its aspiration to join NATO, if its people wish."

© 2011 AFP

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