Moscow hails Georgian promise not to host other countries’ forces

Agence France Presse — English
May 26, 2005 Thursday 3:16 PM GMT

Moscow hails Georgian promise not to host other countries’ forces

MOSCOW

Russia, in tense negotiations with Georgia over the withdrawal of two
military bases, welcomed Thursday a Georgian promise not to let other
foreign forces deploy in the ex-Soviet republic after the Russians’
departure.

An assertion by Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili that other
countries will not step in “accords with Russia’s position,” Russian
foreign ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko said.

“It’s just important that these words are not deviated from in
practice. It’s necessary to fix such a situation in a juridical,
legally binding document,” Yakovenko said in a statement.

Georgia wants a swift pullout of the two bases — one in the Black
Sea port of Batumi, the other near the Georgian-Armenian border at
Akhalkalaki. Russia argues that it needs years to dismantle the
installations and rehouse the troops.

In the latest round of negotiations, Moscow is examining a proposal
to leave by the end of 2008.

The issue has become a major stumbling block in relations between the
two neighbours since the pro-Western Saakashvili came to power in the
“rose revolution” in 2003.

Moscow has portrayed Saakashvili’s rise as further evidence of
creeping US influence in territory Russia has long considered as
within its sphere of influence. Many Georgians see Moscow as
unwilling to respect their sovereignty.

A small US army contingent is deployed in Georgia to train the
country’s small military.

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