MAASTRICHT (Reuters)–Georgia’s interim President Nino Burdzhanadze accused Russia on Monday of undermining her country’s independence by holding talks with leaders from three of its restive regions last week.
Burdzhanadze–an opposition leader appointed after Eduard Shevardnadze quit following accusations of vote rigging in last month’s parliamentary elections–said Russia was important to Georgia’s stability but should not undermine its sovereignty.
Leaders from South Ossetia and Abkhazia–which broke free of Georgian control more than a decade ago–and Adzhara– which has never espoused outright separatism–met Russian officials in Moscow last week–seriously irritating Tbilisi.
"We are ready to step out of a box of historical prejudices and start our relations from a clean paper. At the same time this should be a two-way street,” Burdzhanadze told a summit of foreign ministers in the southern Dutch city of Maastricht.
"Our Russian colleagues should also understand that actions undermining Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity similar to those we witnessed during the last week in Moscow ruin all positive messages and put us in an avoidable confrontational position.” A member of the Georgian delegation at a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Maastricht confirmed Burdzhanadze was referring to last week’s talks in Moscow.
The Kremlin–which played a central role in negotiations leading to Shevardnadze’s resignation–has vowed not to interfere in the former Soviet republic’s internal politics. Burdzhanadze praised Moscow for its intervention to help ensure a peaceful transition of power.
Under Shevardnadze–the one-time Soviet foreign minister who helped end the Cold War–relations between Russia and Georgia were stormy. In addition to encouraging separatist tendencies–Moscow has applied economic and other pressure on Tbilisi.
Western states that see Georgia as a key transit country for a planned pipeline to bring Caspian oil to the Mediterranean are watching events there closely–mindful of a chaotic civil war that gripped the country in the 1990s.
Russia–with two military bases in Georgia–also sees strategic interests there.