Clin­ton takes digs at Rus­sia dur­ing visit to Ge­or­gia

Austin American-Statesman - - TUESDAYBRIEFING - By Robert Burns

TBIL­ISI, Ge­or­gia — U.S. Sec­re­tary of State Hil­lary Clin­ton re­buked Rus­sia on Mon­day for fail­ing to live up to the cease-fire agree­ment it signed nearly two years ago to end the fight­ing in this small for­mer Soviet state.

She as­serted that Rus­sia is oc­cu­py­ing parts of Ge­or­gia and build­ing per­ma­nent mil­i­tary bases in con­tra­ven­tion of the truce.

“We’re call­ing on the Rus­sians to en­force the agree­ment they signed,” she said at a news con­fer­ence with Ge­or­gian Pres­i­dent Mikhail Saakashvili at her side. She said that in­cludes pulling its troops back to the po­si­tions they held be­fore the in­va­sion.

Sev­eral times she point­edly re­ferred to Rus­sian troops as oc­cu­piers of the break­away Ge­or­gian territories of South Os­se­tia and Abk­hazia. She said the U.S. was “ap­palled and to­tally re­jected” Rus­sia’s ra­tio­nale for the in­va­sion, which tem­po­rar­ily put U.S.-Rus­sian re­la­tions in a deep freeze and prompted NATO to sus­pend co­op­er­a­tion with Moscow.

“The United States is stead­fast in its com­mit­ment to Ge­or­gia’s sovereignty and ter­ri­to­rial in­tegrity,” she said. “The United States does not rec­og­nize spheres of in­flu­ence,” she added, re­fer­ring to Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Dmitry Medvedev’s claim that his coun­try has “priv­i­leged in­ter­ests” and spe­cial in­flu­ence in for­mer Soviet states. Ge­or­gia gained its in­de­pen­dence in 1991.

Asked about Clin­ton’s com­ments, Rus­sia’s pow­er­ful Prime Min­is­ter Vladimir Putin warned Ge­or­gia against try­ing to rally U.S. sup­port.

“They mustn’t seek so­lu­tions out­side,” Putin said, ac­cord­ing to Rus­sian news agen­cies.

The in­va­sion re­mains a ma­jor point of con­tention be­tween Washington and Moscow. It com­pli­cates U.S. re­la­tions with Ge­or­gia, which has been skep­ti­cal of the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s pol­icy of adopt­ing friendly re­la­tions with Moscow in an at­tempt to over­come the deep di­vides that de­vel­oped dur­ing the ad­min­is­tra­tion of Pres­i­dent Ge­orge W. Bush.

Saakashvili told re­porters, how­ever, that upon fur­ther re­flec­tion he thinks Pres­i­dent Barack Obama’s pol­icy is the cor­rect one.

He and Clin­ton took a stroll through a por­tion of the old­est sec­tion of Tbil­isi, stop­ping at a cafe to toast her visit with a glass of Ge­or­gian wine.

Ear­lier, Clin­ton met with sev­eral hun­dred Ge­or­gian fe­male lead­ers from a range of fields, in­clud­ing law and la­bor unions.

Ge­or­gia was the fi­nal stop on a Clin­ton tour that be­gan Thurs­day in Ukraine and took her to Poland, Azer­bai­jan and Ar­me­nia. She was fly­ing back to Washington to join Obama for a meet­ing to­day with Is­raeli Prime Min­is­ter Ben­jamin Ne­tanyahu.

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