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NATO: 'No business as usual' with Russia

Latest update : 2008-08-19

The foreign ministers of the 26 NATO nations met in Brussels Tuesday to respond to Russia's continued presence in Georgia. The member countries aimed to overcome their differences and delivered a forceful response to the crisis.

Chastising Russia’s failure to withdraw from Georgia, NATO allies warned that there could be “no business as usual” with Moscow until Russia fully complied with last week’s ceasefire agreement.

 

In a joint declaration released following an emergency crisis meeting in Brussels Tuesday, foreign ministers of the 26-member alliance warned that NATO’s future relations with Moscow would depend on “concrete actions” by Russia.

 

Speaking to reporters in Brussels Tuesday, NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer announced the launch of a NATO-Georgia Commission to oversee relations between Tbilisi and the Western military alliance.

 

In her address following the talks, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice noted that there was “very strong language in the declaration and very strong language around the table” at Tuesday’s talks on “the need for Russia to honour the ceasefire agreement as it was undertaken.”

 

‘Absolutely zero evidence’ of Russian withdrawal

 

The meeting comes as Russian troops in Georgia showed little signs of pulling back, according to Georgian officials and reporters on the ground.

 

Reporting from the Georgian capital of Tbilisi Tuesday, FRANCE 24’s Robert Parsons said there was “absolutely zero evidence” that Russian troops were leaving either the breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia or the Georgian heartland.

 

More than a week after Russian troops advanced into Georgia following a Georgian attack on the Russian-backed, breakaway province of South Ossetia, Parsons described the mood in Tbilisi as “very highly strung.”

 

With the Russian military still planted in strategic locations in the Georgian heartland -including the town of Gori and the Senaki military base in western Georgia- Parsons said the residents of Tbilisi were “very edgy indeed.”

 

Russia, Georgia accept observers

 

Meanwhile, Russia and Georgia agreed to allow 20 OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) observers into Georgia, following discussions in Vienna Tuesday.

 

Speaking to reporters in Brussels, where he was also attending the NATO meeting, OSCE chairman, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, said the observers would be based "in the zone of conflict adjacent to South Ossetia."

 

The first of the unarmed OSCE monitors are to arrive in Georgia later this week, according to Stubb.

 

NATO is also dispatching a team of 15 experts on civil emergency planning to aid the country’s reconstruction mission. According to de Hoop Scheffer, the military alliance will support Georgia’s reestablishment of its battered air traffic system and will aid the Georgian government’s investigation into the nature of cyber attacks during the confrontation with Russia.

 

Earlier Tuesday, Russian and Georgian troops exchanged prisoners at a checkpoint near Tbilisi as a gesture of goodwill.

Date created : 2008-08-19

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