Merkel in Tbilisi for talks on Georgian-Russian crisis

Georgia Materials 17 August 2008 16:20 (UTC +04:00)

(dpa) - German Chancellor Angela Merkel landed in the Georgian capital Tbilisi Sunday as part of the European Union's mediation efforts in the Georgian-Russian stand-off over the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Merkel was expected to meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in the early afternoon and press for strict adherence to the recently agreed ceasefire, signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Saturday one day after Saakashvili.

Merkel had demanded that Russia withdraw all its troops from Georgia's core territory when she met Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.

She also stressed that Germany's position was that Georgia's territorial integrity was beyond question and that Saakashvili was a democratically elected president.

Government sources said ahead of her departure that she intended to push for "a complete cessation of hostilities."

"The ceasefire must be verifiable and lasting," they said.

Georgian media hald back from predictions of what effect, if any, Merkel's visit would have on Russian troops currently occupying Georgian territory.

Rustaveli 2 television described Merkel's presence in Georgia as "part of an international effort to support Georgia."