Georgia blasts Russian MPs' call to recognize rebels
( Reuter )- Georgia on Monday condemned as "barefaced interference" in its internal affairs a call by Russian lawmakers for the Kremlin to recognize rebel Georgian regions as independent.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said Moscow was no longer an impartial mediator in the region and would, from now on, have to seek Tbilisi's consent for any changes to its peacekeeping detachments there.
Russia's parliament unanimously approved a resolution last Friday urging the Kremlin to consider recognizing Georgia's breakaway regions -- Abkhazia and South Ossetia .
Deputies also said Russia should consider speeding up recognition of the rebel regions as independent if pro-Western Georgia is put on the track to join NATO.
The Duma's non-binding resolution was widely seen in Russia as a signal by the lower house of parliament that Moscow could use Kosovo's independence -- which it fiercely opposed -- as a precedent to recognize separatists closer to home.
"This document is ... another barefaced attempt to intervene in a neighboring sovereign state's internal affairs," Georgia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
"This document is against international law, and the resolutions and the main principles of the United Nations."
The Duma vote came before an April 2-4 NATO summit in Bucharest at which U.S. President George W. Bush is expected to press for Georgia and ex-Soviet Ukraine to be set on the path to alliance membership, despite Russian opposition.
Russia's parliament is dominated by President Vladimir Putin's supporters and its initiatives are often coordinated with the Kremlin.
Russia keeps hundreds of its peacekeepers on Georgian soil but has also provided moral and financial assistance to the separatists and the majority of locals hold Russian citizenship.
Georgia's Foreign Ministry said the latest statement from Moscow was yet more proof that " Russia has lost the political, legal and moral right to pretend to play a role of a neutral and objective mediator in conflict settlement."
Failure to seek Tbilisi's consent to changes in the number, weaponry, mandate or terms of presence of Russian peacekeepers on Georgian territory "will be considered as an aggression against the Georgian state, with all possible consequences."
The ministry did not elaborate.