NATO cannot maintain its usual working relationship with Russia as long as Russian troops remain in strength in Georgia, the alliance's foreign ministers agreed at an emergency meeting in Brussels on Tuesday, dpa reported.
"We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual. We call on Moscow to demonstrate - both in word and deed - its continued commitment to the principles upon which we agreed to base our relationship," the ministers said in a statement.
"We're not abandoning the NATO-Russia Council (NRC), but as long as Russian forces are basically occupying a large part of Georgia, I cannot see the NRC convening at any level," NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said.
Russia should therefore withdraw its troops from Georgia in line with the peace plan agreed between the Georgian and Russian presidents on August 12, he said.
"Our future relationship (with Russia) will depend on concrete actions to abide by the peace plan, which is not happening at the moment," he said. The NRC was founded in 2002 to promote dialogue between the two sides.
Also in Tuesday's meeting, the NATO ministers decided that they should create a permanent commission to oversee their relationship.
The commission is intended to "supervise" Georgia's progress towards NATO membership, a goal which NATO leaders approved at a summit in Bucharest in April and which foreign ministers are expected to discuss in Brussels in December.
"Georgia can become a member of the alliance. ... The Bucharest decision stands," de Hoop Scheffer insisted.
The commission is to be modelled on the already-existing NATO- Ukraine Commission (NUC), which organizes meetings on various official levels, including the two sides' top leadership. The NUC is due to hold an emergency session next week, de Hoop Scheffer said.
Both Georgia and Ukraine say that they want to join NATO, and in April the alliance's leaders pledged that the two former-Soviet states would join at a future, unspecified date.
But after that pledge, relations between Georgia, Russia and the Georgian breakaway territory of South Ossetia deteriorated sharply. The conflict ended in a week of fierce fighting in mid-August, and left the Russian military in control of a swathe of Georgian territory.
The NATO meeting was called in response to that crisis.