Friday, September 19, 2008
LONDON (AFP) – NATO denied provoking last month’s conflict between Russia and Georgia, a spokesman for the alliance said Friday, after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev accused it of sparking the conflict.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer meanwhile pledged “full solidarity” with the ex-Soviet republic, following an informal meeting with the 26-nation bloc’s defence ministers in London.
In a separate development likely to anger Moscow, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates and his Czech counterpart signed an agreement clearing the way for stationing US forces to operate a missile defence radar in the Czech Republic.
Asked for his response to Medvedev’s accusations earlier, NATO spokesman James Appathurai told AFP: “There is nothing provocative about supporting Georgia’s democratic development, nor anything provocative in helping them meet their aspirations to come closer to the Euro-Atlantic community.”
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Medvedev had said NATO “provoked the conflict” between Russia and Georgia last month, adding that Russia was “being pushed… behind an Iron Curtain. I would like to underline again that this is not our path. There is no sense for us in returning to the past.”
De Hoop Scheffer, meanwhile, told reporters at a press conference in London that “NATO is in full solidarity … with the Georgian people and with the Georgian government.”
“We have an intensive partnership, an intensive dialogue, an intensive high-level political engagement with Georgia,” he added.
Georgian efforts to become part of NATO have infuriated Russia, which objects to the prospect of its old Cold War foe extending to its borders.
The brief Georgia-Russia war last month overshadowed the talks, which were originally intended to focus on the alliance’s continuing transformation to a more flexible regional security bloc, and the conflict has chilled Russia’s relations with the West to a degree not seen since the Cold War.