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Russia Seeks Backing Over Georgia At CSTO Summit

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the situation in Georgia's separatist regions and Nagorno-Karabakh cannot be compared.
Six former Soviet countries have sided with Moscow in its standoff with Tbilisi over Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

The foreign ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) -- which comprises Russia, Armenia, Belarus, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- praised the "active role of the Russian Federation in working toward peace and cooperation in the Caucasus."

The statement was adopted at a meeting in the Russian capital on September 4.

The ministers, however, stopped short of following Russia's lead in recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, Georgia's other pro-Russian rebel region.

Answering a question from RFE/RL's Armenian Service, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov defended Russia's actions in Georgia at a news conference following the meeting.

"There are no parallels whatsoever between the situation around South Ossetia and Abkhazia on the one hand, and the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement on the other hand," Lavrov said.

"In the case of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the Saakashvili regime has consistently over the past years undermined every negotiation format and every settlement mechanism agreed previously by all sides."

Russia, which has come under Western fire for its military offensive in Georgia and its recognition of Georgia's breakaway regions, is eager to shore up support among its traditional allies.

Konstantin Zatulin, a pro-Kremlin State Duma deputy who heads the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) Institute, says Russia will seek further backing on September 5 when CSTO heads of states gather in Moscow.

"Of course, Russia wants the leaders of these countries to learn firsthand about Russia's position, about the motives behind Russia's decisions, including the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia," Zatulin says.

"Russia is interested in the support of the Collective Security Treaty Organization. But we are not twisting anyone's arm, we are not making this a reason to reassess relations."

The CSTO summit comes just days after China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan -- all members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization -- offered only lukewarm support for Russia's military operations in Georgia and failed to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Nicaragua is the only country to have joined Russia in recognizing the two Georgian rebel provinces, which have run their own affairs since breaking away from central Georgian government control in wars in the early 1990s.
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