US Assistant Secretary of State urges Russia to 'withdraw troops from Georgia'

Georgian television channel 1TV reports that US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs A. Wess Mitchell declared Russia "must withdraw its troops" deployed in the territory of Georgia in 2008 during the conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The American diplomat made this statement from the Georgian side of the demarcation line, which Tskhinvali and Moscow consider to be the state border of South Ossetia. "Ten years have passed since the war [Russia-Georgia 2008 war] and I am here to remind Russia that we have not forgotten the events. We do not recognize the occupation line as a state border.  We care about the security of the Georgian people who live beyond the occupation line," Mitchell said.

The Assistant Secretary of State said that the US calls on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement and assured that Washington is committed to Georgia's security issues. "We urge the Russian government to fulfill its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement in order to restore [the sovereignty of Georgia] over these regions and facilitate humanitarian access to them," he stressed.

Mitchell added that the US will resist Russia's attempts to intervene in foreign affairs, "as Georgia does."

Mitchell is in Georgia for the NATO-Georgia Public Diplomacy Forum in Tbilisi. He also confirmed the intention of the Alliance, originally voiced at NATO’s Bucharest summit in 2008, to include Georgia in the military bloc when Georgia is ready for accession. As reported by the Rustavi 2 television channel, Mitchell also met members of the United National Movement Party (ENM) at the US Embassy as part of his visit to Tbilisi. In particular, he met with Salome Samadashvili, Georgi Baramidze and Zaza Bibilashvili. EDM was the ruling party during the years of Mikheil Saakashvili's presidency, during which Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared their independence.

Russian forces have been constantly deployed in the territory of South Ossetia since February 2009, when at the end of the Five Day War with Georgia, Moscow recognized the independence of the self-declared republic. Before the start of the war, in August 2008 a Russian motorized rifle battalion was stationed in the suburb of Tskhinvali.

Most ethnic Georgians were forced to leave their homes in South Ossetia during the 2008 Russian-Georgian war but even today they make up about half of the population of the Akhalgori Municipality, which is unique for the breakaway region of Georgia.

The independence of the self-proclaimed Republic of South Ossetia after the war was recognized only by four states: Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru. All the other UN member states consider this region to be part of Georgia.

  Russia, Georgia, Abkhazia, South Ossetia, USA

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