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Pope Urges Sides To Keep Their Word On South Ossetia

Pope Benedict XVI
CASTELGANDOLFO, Italy -- The conflict in South Ossetia has seriously damaged international relations, Pope Benedict has said, while urging parties to keep their promises to resolve the crisis peacefully.

"The international situation in recent weeks has seen a increase in tensions which is very worrying," the Pontiff told pilgrims attending his weekly Angelus blessing on August 24.

Echoing fears that the conflict between Russia and Georgia could rekindle Cold War tensions between East and West, Benedict said there was a "risk of a deterioration in the climate of trust between nations."

"Recent events have weakened many people's confidence that such experiences had been confined definitively to the past," he said, calling for efforts to defeat "nationalist confrontations which produced so many tragic consequences in other seasons of history."

The conflict erupted on August 7-8 when Georgia tried to retake the breakaway enclave of South Ossetia. A Russian counteroffensive pushed into Georgia proper, crossing its east-west highway and nearing a Western-backed oil pipeline.

Without directly referring to Russia's undertaking to withdraw from Georgia, which Western countries says has not yet happened in full accordance with a cease-fire agreement, the pope called on all sides to fulfil their promises.

"Violence must be rejected. The moral force of law; fair and transparent negotiations to settle controversies, starting with those linked to territorial integrity and people's self-determination; loyalty to one's word; seeking a common good -- these are some of the main paths to go down," Benedict said.