German chancellor slams Russian recognition of Georgian separatists

Georgia Materials 26 August 2008 17:50 (UTC +04:00)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel sharply criticized the decision Tuesday by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to recognize the independence of the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, reported dpa.

Speaking on a visit to the Estonian capital of Tallinn, Merkel said Medvedev's decision was "absolutely not acceptable."

Medvedev justified his decision to sign decrees recognizing the independence of the two regions on the grounds that they needed protection from Georgian aggression.

The Russian president's decision followed unanimous votes in both houses of the Russian parliament on Monday that called for the recognition of the two regions.

Continued cooperation between the European Union (EU) and Russia should be conditional on respect for human rights, democratic principles and international law, the German chancellor said.

Merkel added, however, that she did not want to break off the dialogue between NATO and Russia.

And she stressed that the doors remained open for Georgia and Ukraine to seek membership of the Western military alliance.

"Georgia and Ukraine will be members of NATO," Merkel said.

There should be no doubt in anyone's mind that the two countries would be offered NATO Membership Action Plans (MAPs) - the precursor to full membership - as the next step, Merkel said.

NATO leaders turned down the applications for MAPs from the former republics of the Soviet Union at the alliance's summit in Bucharest in April, with Germany among the NATO members expressing reservations about offering membership soon.

Russia, which shares borders with both countries, has made clear its opposition to either joining the alliance. NATO ministers are to take up the issue at a meeting in December.