Russia should uphold ceasefire obligations: Ashton

13th August 2010, Comments 0 comments

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged Russia to respect its ceasefire obligations on Friday after Moscow announced it had deployed missiles in Georgia's rebel region of Abkhazia.

Russia revealed on Wednesday it had installed the S-300 missile system to provide anti-aircraft defence for Abkhazia and Georgia's other Moscow-backed rebel region, South Ossetia.

Ashton said the EU was concerned about Russia's decision to introduce the missile battery in Abkhazia "without the consent of the Government of Georgia."

She added that the deployment of the weapon system was "in contradiction with the six-point ceasefire agreement" concluded in 2008 and risked further increasing tensions in the region.

Russia's air force Commander-in-Chief General Alexander Zelin said in a statement on Wednesday that the systems were installed "not only to cover the terrritory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia but to avert violations of state borders in the air."

They were also aimed at the "destruction of any flying object penetrating into the covered territories, whatever aim they were flying with," he added.

But Ashton said Russia must respect Georgia's sovereignty and reiterated the EU's "firm support for the security and stability of Georgia."

Georgian Deputy Prime Minister and Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said on Wednesday that Russia's move is worrying not just for Georgia, but for other regional actors including NATO.

He said the latest decision by Moscow could be linked to its anger over US plans to install similar systems in former Communist bloc East European countries which have joined the NATO alliance.

Georgia's ambition to become part of NATO has also annoyed Russia.

Russian forces briefly invaded Georgia two years ago, following an attempt by Tbilisi to recover South Ossetia, prompting the worst post-Cold War crisis between Moscow and the West.

Georgia insists that Abkhazia and South Ossetia belong to its territory, while Russia recognised the independence of the two regions following the war. An EU-brokered ceasefire has held, despite tensions in the region.

© 2010 AFP

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