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Georgia Seeks EU Backing In Frozen Conflicts

EU External Relations Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner with Georgian Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili (Courtesy Photo) BRUSSELS, Sept 14, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia's foreign minister, Gela Bezhuashvili, today visited Brussels in a bid to gain greater EU backing for its attempts to resolve the country's disputes with two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

After meeting the EU's external relations commissioner, Benita Ferrero-Waldner, Bezhuashvili also sought to dispel concerns within the EU that Georgia might attempt to settle the conflicts by force, saying that Georgia wants to resolve the longstanding disputes through "direct bilateral talks, based on the principle of peaceful solution solely."

Ferrero-Waldner, who has previously criticized a sharp rise in Georgia's defense spending and branded some official rhetoric "hate speech," said the EU remains "concerned by the atmosphere."

Bezhuashvili said Georgia wants the EU to become a "guarantor" in talks with South Ossetia.

An EU diplomat who asked not to be named told RFE/RL that Georgia's expectations are seen within the Union as "extremely high," and that the country risks losing EU support if it openly antagonizes Russia or takes unilateral measures.