President George W. Bush says Russia must fully honor the cease-fire agreement it signed with Georgia to end the conflict over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Fighting broke out between Russian and Georgian forces in South Ossetia on August 7th.
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed a cease-fire accord and reportedly began withdrawing Russian armored combat forces from Georgia. President Bush called the move a hopeful step, but has urged Russia to fully complete the withdrawal. "Now Russia needs to honor the agreement and withdraw its forces, and of course end military operations," he said.
President Bush also noted that "a major issue is Russia's contention that the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia may not be part of Georgia's future." The regions are part of Georgia, he said, and "the international community has repeatedly made clear that they will remain so." Georgia's borders, said Mr. Bush, "should command the same respect as every other nation's."
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice says Russia seems to want to have it both ways. "It wants to be a part of these institutions that are so essential to the international economy and the international order, and on the other hand, it wants to engage in kind of Soviet-style behavior of intimidating and invading ... neighbors. Both can't be true," she says.
Secretary Rice said the U.S. has good relations with Georgia and has encouraged democratic and economic reforms there. The U.S., she said, has also encouraged Georgians and all parties to the conflict in South Ossetia and Abkhazia to find a peaceful resolution to the crisis. "We supported peace plans, we've supported diplomacy, we've told all parties not to get involved in military conflict," said Dr. Rice. But Russia's decision to reach into the territory of Georgia proper, beyond the conflict zone of the separatist region of South Ossetia, has made a bad situation worse. At this juncture, said Secretary of State Rice, the conflict needs to be resolved through diplomacy, not force. The U.S., she said, supports a negotiated settlement on issues related to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and a resolution that ensures the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.