EU foreign policy chief visits Georgia to discuss tensions in Abkhazia
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana visited Georgia Thursday to discuss tensions in its breakaway province of Abkhazia where Russia has deployed troops, reported AP.
Russia's support for Abkhazia has been a source of growing friction with Georgia. Russian peacekeepers have been deployed in the lush Black Sea province since 1994, and
Moscow recently sent in additional forces.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili has urged Russia to withdraw its newly sent troops and voiced hope that the European Union would help defuse the crisis.
Saakashvili said after the talks with Solana that the Russian actions "pose daily danger to peace and security.
He added that he would offer a "hand of friendship" to Moscow when he meets with Russia's President Dmitry Medvedev in St. Petersburg later this week, but added that the freshly deployed Russian forces should be pulled out immediately.
"I hope that we will coordinate efforts to see how the bilateral relationship between Georgia and Russia could be better," Solana said.
Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in 1993 after fierce fighting that followed the break-up of the Soviet Union and efforts to settle the conflict have stalled.
Russia's relations with Georgia have steadily deteriorated since Saakashvili, a U.S.-educated lawyer, came to power in 2004. Saakashvili's push for Georgia's integration into the West and NATO membership has vexed Moscow, which sees its strategically placed neighbor as part of its sphere of influence.
Recent weeks have seen tension between Georgia and Russia escalate.
Georgia, which has said it suspects Russia of using peacekeeping troops as a cover to bring artillery and other equipment into Abkhazia, has flown pilotless reconnaissance drones over the breakaway region.
Georgia accused Russia of shooting down a spy drone last month, and Russia has denied it. United Nations observers studied video footage and concluded that a Russian fighter shot down the drone.