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Russia does not want “bad relations” with U.S. – Russian FM Lavrov

RIA Novosti [1]
Sunday, Sept 7, 2008

Russia does not want its relations with the United States to deteriorate and is ready to cooperate with Washington on strategic issues, the Russian foreign minister told CNN.

“We are not interested in bad relations with the United States. It wouldn’t be our choice, but if the United States does not want to cooperate with us on one or another issue, we cannot impose,” Sergei Lavrov said, speaking about a possible isolation Russia could find itself in on the part of the international community due to the recent conflict in the South Caucasus.

CNN said Lavrov in this way refuted a statement by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, made earlier in Kiev, which said it is doubtable that Russia is still a reliable international partner.

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The Russian minister said Russia had no other choice than to intervene just to save the lives of Russian nationals in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia on August 26, two weeks after it had concluded its operation “to force Georgia to peace.” The operation came in response to an attack by Georgian forces on breakaway South Ossetia on August 8.

Moscow said hundreds of civilians were killed in the Georgian attack on South Ossetia, and thousands fled the devastated region.

Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh said Saturday Russia has prevented a large-scale war in the Caucasus. “What Russia did was done in time to prevent a big war from erupting,” he said.

Russia has now withdrawn its regular troops from Georgia, but insists it can maintain checkpoints in security zones near the regions under the ceasefire deal brokered by France. Moscow has also accused Tbilisi of building up troops near South Ossetia.

Western nations have strongly criticized Russia for its “disproportionate” response to Georgia’s attack and the recognition of Georgia’s breakaway provinces. NATO-Russia cooperation has also been frozen.

Nicaragua has become the first country after Russia to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.