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15 Aug, 2008 09:31

Merkel and Medvedev split over European peacekeepers

The leaders of Russia and Germany have clashed over the role of European peacekeepers in South Ossetia. Speaking after their meeting in Sochi, the German Chancellor Angela Merkel said their presence was vital to maintain

(watch the media conference of the Russian President and the German Chancellor)

Medvedev said: “Peace in the region should be re-established and guaranteed so that no idiotic ideas ever come to anyone’s head – that is the main task for the Russian Federation at the present moment.”

He added that the South Ossetian and Abkhazian sides had stated they would only trust Russian forces to secure peace in the region.

Merkel told the media she did not want to apportion blame, but explained she was not happy with Moscow’s actions.

“The reaction of Russia was disproportionate,” she said. “The presence of military forces on the Georgian territory was wrong. I believe we have to realise the plan of the six principles as soon as possible so that Russian troops can leave the territory of Georgia.”

Though Merkel reiterated the stance that Georgia's territorial integrity must be respected, Medvedev reminded her that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are not planning to rejoin Georgia.

“Russia as a guarantor of security in the Cacausion region will accept the solution which will reflect in unambiguous terms the will of these two Caucasasian peoples,” he said.

"We are not against having international peacekeepers there, it's not a matter of our stance. We are also performing our part of the duty of providing security in that complicated region.

“But the problem is that the South Ossetians and Abkhazians do not believe in any peacekeepers except for the Russians. That’s because over the last 15 years, the only troops that have been capable of upholding their interests, and, unfortunately sometimes also having to protect their lives, have been the Russian army.”

Georgia’s military assault in South Ossetia has raised the question over whether Georgia will still be welcomed by NATO. In April this year the country'e entrance to the alliance was postponed. But the German Chancellor made no mention of any obstacles for Georgia's membership in the organisation.

“As we've said before Georgia and Ukraine will become members of NATO,” she said. “We talked about the preparations for their membership being the next step, and they will be members of NATO when they want to, that remains effective.”