Georgia's parliament Tuesday demanded that Russian peacekeeping
forces withdraw from two separatist regions, a move certain to
further heighten tension between Moscow and the former Soviet
In a 144-0 vote, lawmakers passed a non-binding resolution
calling on the government to start a process that would lead to the
pull-out of Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Opposition lawmakers in the 235-member legislature boycotted the
resolution, saying it was too weak because it gave no definite
timeframe for the pull-out.
President Mikhail Saakashvili has final say on the issue, and
will likely try to use the vote as leverage in dealing with Russia
on a host of disputes that have poisoned relations, including
Russian bans on Georgian wines and mineral water and Georgian
efforts to block Russian membership in the World Trade
South Ossetia and Abkhazia have run their own affairs with
Russian support since breaking away from central government control
in wars in the early 1990s, and have resisted efforts by
Saakashvili to rein them in.
"No one should have any illusions that these 'frozen conflicts'
will forever remain in this condition, and that historically
inalienable parts of Georgia can be split apart from it,"
parliamentary speaker Nino Burdzhanadze said.
Russian peacekeepers serve in Abkhazia under the auspices of the
Commonwealth of Independent States and in South Ossetia as part of
a force that also includes Georgian and South Ossetian
The actions of the Russian peacekeepers are "extremely
negative," the resolution reads, and "are one of the main barriers
on the path to peaceful resolution of the conflicts" in Abkhazia
and South Ossetia.
The resolution the second of its kind to be passed by parliament
in 10 months also calls on the government to begin annulling
agreements governing the peacekeeping forces in preparation for
their "immediate withdrawal."
Russian officials have indicated they would not agree to
withdraw peacekeepers from South Ossetia or Abkhazia unless the
separatist leaders of the regions call on them to do so. Russia has
also granted citizenship to most residents of the two regions and
have stressed they would take no action that would endanger Russian
citizens another argument against withdrawal.
Relations between Georgia and Russia have worsened significantly
since the 2004 election of Saakashvili, who has sought to shed
Russian influence on Georgia dominated by Moscow for most of the
past two centuries and align his country with the United States and
(China Daily July 19, 2006)