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Georgia sovereignty, integrity ’must be respected’: Obama

world Updated: Jul 07, 2009 12:33 IST

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Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity “must be respected,” US President Barack Obama stated on Monday during a joint Kremlin press conference with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.

“There are areas where we still disagree,” Obama said following his discussions with Medvedev.

“For instance, we had a frank discussion on Georgia and I reiterated my firm belief that Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected.”

“But even as we work through our disagreements on Georgia’s borders we agree that no one has an interest in renewed military conflict,” Obama said.

“And going forward we must speak candidly to resolve these differences peacefully and constructively.”

Russia and Georgia fought a brief but fierce war last August that concluded with Russian forces routing Georgian troops.

Moscow shortly afterwards recognised two separatist Georgian regions as independent countries.

Top White House advisor Michael McFaul told reporters Obama had made it clear to Medvedev during their talks that the idea of a sphere of influence belonged in the past.

McFaul, Senior Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs, told reporters, “We had a long discussion on Georgia, as we always do with the Russians; the president made it very clear that the idea of a sphere of influence is something that belongs in the 19th century, not the 21st century.

“He laid down a marker: we are never going to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent States.”

Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili promptly hailed America’s “unconditional” support for Georgia.

“The United States has expressed its unconditional support for Georgia,” Saakashvili told Georgia’s Rustavi 2 television.

“Georgia does have support and in the future there will be even greater support... together with our friends we will be able to free our country from occupation.”