WAHSINGTON – United States President George W. Bush expressed American concerns Wednesday that Russia was violating the truce agreement with Georgia and called on Moscow to honor its commitments.
A short while later, Russia's foreign minister said the US had to choose between partnership with Moscow and the Georgian leadership, which he described as a "virtual project."
"We understand that this current Georgian leadership is a special project of the United States, but one day the United States will have to choose between defending its prestige over a virtual project or real partnership which requires joint action," Sergei Lavrov told reporters.
The Kremlin said on Thursday that Russian President Dmitry Medvedev has urged France, which is mediating in its conflict with Georgia, to encourage Tbilisi to sign a binding agreement not to attack its separatist regions.
Medvedev late on Wednesday spoke by telephone with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who helped outline the basic principles of the ceasefire over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, the Kremlin said in a press release.
"D. Medvedev noted that the most important thing now for ensuring a sustainable process of normalizing situation in the region is the (non-attack) agreement ... Rather than UN resolutions or declarations," the press release said.
"This agreement should be based on the approved principles, signed by South Ossetian and Georgian sides and by Russia, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe as guarantors," he added.
Aftermath of Russian bombing (Photo: Reuters)
In his address, President Bush said Russia's ongoing action raised serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region"
"In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century…now, Russia's putting its aspirations at risk," the president added.
"Russia has stated that changing the government of Georgia is not its goal. The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment. Russia has also stated that it has halted military operations and agreed to a provisional cease-fire," Bush noted, and added: "Unfortunately, we're receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements."
Citing reports about Russian ceasefire violations, Bush said: "With these concerns in mind, I have directed a series of steps to demonstrate our solidarity with the Georgian people and bring about a peaceful resolution to this conflict."
The president made it clear that "The United States of America stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected."
"I'm sending Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to France, where she will confer with President Sarkozy. She will then travel to Tbilisi, where she will personally convey America's unwavering support for Georgia's democratic government," Bush said. "On this trip, she will continue our efforts to rally the free world in the defense of a free Georgia."
Several dozens of Russian military trucks and armored vehicles sped out of Gori and were seen heading in the direction of the Georgian capital.
Reuters contributed to the report