GEORGIAN MINISTER WARNS OF 'DOMINO EFFECT' IN CAUCASUS CRISIS

Agence France Presse
August 31, 2008 Sunday

Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili warned Sunday of the
risk of tensions snowballing across the Caucasus and into Ukraine
after Russian troops entered Georgia.

"Russia's military hostility against the small state of Georgia could
have a domino effect in other countries of the region like Ukraine,"
Tkeshelashvili told a press conference with Turkish counterpart Ali
Babacan in Istanbul.

Babacan was hosting Tkeshelashvili two days before he is due to meet
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov in the same city.

"When the weapons fall silent, it is time for diplomacy," the Turkish
minister said. But there are no plans for a three-way ministerial
meeting, a government official said earlier.

Tkeshelashvili said Tbilisi would not talk to Moscow "for as long as
the Russian Federation has not left Georgia and does not fully apply
the ceasefire."

However, in a change of stance, she also stated that Tbilisi was not
looking for European sanctions against Russia, ahead of Monday's
emergency EU summit in Brussels aimed at agreeing on a bloc-wide
response to the Georgia-Russia conflict.

"For us, European sanctions against Russia are not a priority,"
she said, adding that measures short of formal sanctions could be
effective.

The French EU presidency has all-but ruled out sanctions, but leaders
are still debating a response that could include measures to reduce
Europe's dependency on Russian oil and gas.

Other levers targeting individual leaders have in past cases included
travel bans or the freezing of overseas bank accounts.

Russian troops entered Georgia on August 8 to push back a Georgian
offensive to retake South Ossetia, which broke away from Tbilisi in
the early 1990s with Moscow's backing.

Georgia and Russia accuse each other of having provoked the conflict.

Moscow had pulled out most troops after a French-mediated ceasefire
agreement but Tbilisi wants all Russian forces to leave the country.

Tkeshelashvili accused Moscow of an "expansionist policy" and called
on the international community to back Georgia's territorial integrity.

Babacan urged Moscow and Tbilisi to keep all channels of communications
open and proposed the creation of a Platform for Cooperation and
Stability in the Caucasus which would group Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia, Russia and Turkey.

Tkeshelashvili welcomed the proposal but said Tbilisi's priority was
the withdrawal of Russian troops from her country.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress