LONDON (AFP) — The United States on Friday urged Russia to exercise restraint after warning it might undermine regional stability with its troop deployments to the separatist Georgian province of Abkhazia.
"We want to see Georgia and Russia have good neighborly relations between them," State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters.
"And we certainly would urge the Russian government to exercise caution in any activities that it is taking because we don't think that some of the things that we have seen lead to increased stability or increased security, not only for Georgia, but for Russia as well," he added.
"So we continue to be very concerned about some of these moves. We certainly have not seen any kind of reciprocal movement of troops or military on the Georgian side of the border," Casey said.
"And, again, we would urge restraint on the part of the Russian government and urge them to consider the effects of their actions on the overall stability of the region," Casey said.
While flying to London late Thursday, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said she was "very concerned" by Russian troop movements in Abkhazia, but stopped short of asking Moscow to withdraw its soldiers.
Rice said it is extremely important that Russia respects "the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia," adding that she would raise the issue with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.
Russia's defense ministry announced an increase in peacekeeping forces in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another separatist Georgian province, in response to what it called aggressive moves by pro-Western Georgia.
Rice noted that the troop movements were being linked to a peacekeeping operation agreed under accords dating back to the early 1990s. "But since I don't believe that Georgia intends to attack Abkhazia, I don't see the necessity of it," she said.
Relations between Russia and Georgia have deteriorated in recent weeks since Moscow announced on April 16 it was strengthening cooperation with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
The row comes amid wider tensions over Georgia's desire to integrate with the West and particularly to join the NATO. Moscow is deeply opposed to further NATO enlargement to include ex-Soviet Georgia and Ukraine.
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