Russian President Vladimir Putin recently announced that Russia would increase its contacts with the Georgian separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. In a written statement, U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said, "This step challenges Georgia's territorial integrity and would not be in keeping with Russia's status as a 'facilitator' of the peace process." The United States calls on the Russian government to repeal its instruction.
Both Abkhazia and South Ossetia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s after fighting wars with the Georgian government. President Mikhail Saakashvili has been trying to work out an agreement in which both regions would rejoin Georgia.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice has urged the Russia government to support a peaceful resolution to the separatist conflicts in Georgia:
"The United States is absolutely committed to the territorial integrity of Georgia. We believe that there should be an effort to carry out the plans the Georgians have talked about to try and deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Obviously, the people of those regions need to have a good life and Georgia need to provide for them. But we are very concerned at the steps that have been taken and we have made our views known to the Russian government."
The United States also regrets Russia's decision to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States economic and military sanctions on Abkhazia. The Russian government has said it will continue to adhere to military sanctions. Nevertheless, the lifting of the sanctions, said spokesman McCormack, "has raised concerns over military transparency in the region. We believe," he said, "the withdrawal of sanctions undermines the peace process."
Russia's support is critical to achieving a peaceful political resolution to the separatist conflicts in Georgia. That's why it is important for the Russian government to repeal its instruction to increase contacts with the separatist regimes in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Instead, Russia should join the U.S. in supporting political resolutions in these regions.