Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused NATO of bias and support of a "criminal regime" in Tbilisi after the organization announced a freeze on Alliance-Russia relations Tuesday. NATO Secretary-General Jaap de
Hoop Scheffer said that NATO would stop its regular contacts with Russia until Moscow had fully withdrawn its troops from Georgia in line with a peace deal.
"We have determined that we cannot continue with business as usual," the 26 NATO states said in a joint declaration issued in Brussels, pursuant to talks about the Russian-Georgian crisis.
"The Alliance is considering seriously the implications of Russia's actions for the NATO-Russia relationship," it added.
The short statement did not explicitly refer to a US call for the alliance to suspend contacts within the six-year-old NATO-Russia Council (NRC), but de Hoop Scheffer said such contacts could not take place under present conditions.
"We are not abandoning the NATO-Russia Council but as long as Russian forces are basically occupying a large part of Georgia I cannot see a NATO-Russia Council convening at whatever level," he told a news conference.
"But I should add that we certainly do not have the intention to close all doors in our communication with Russia," he said after several key European allies including Britain and Germany expressed doubts about cutting off links with Moscow.