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Thursday, Aug. 21, 2008

Georgian ambassador asks Japan to act

Tokyo, international community must put more pressure on Moscow to end conflict in the Caucasus, envoy says

Staff writer

To achieve peace and stability in Georgia, Japan should increase the pressure on Moscow to end its occupation of the sovereign state, Georgian Ambassador to Japan Ivane Matchavariani said Wednesday in Tokyo.

Speaking at a seminar organized by the nonprofit Sasakawa Peace Foundation, Matchavariani said peace in his home country will not be restored unless the international community, including Japan, takes a hand in the process.

"Japan could and should engage" in monitoring the situation and make its voice heard to bring peace and stability to Georgia, the ambassador said.

The conflict between Russia and Georgia is rooted in territorial disputes over the regions of Abkhazia and Ossetia, Matchavariani told the audience. But while Russia has claimed that its Aug. 8 incursion into South Ossetia was intended to protect the region from the Georgian Army, in fact his country was merely responding to an unlawful attack from the Russian side, Matchavariani said.

"The fact is, we're not in Russia. We're not fighting in Northern Ossetia. Russians are in Georgia, a sovereign territory," Matchavariani said.

The two camps signed a ceasefire agreement last week but Georgia "hasn't seen any Russians moving out of the country," said the ambassador, who returned to Tokyo from his homeland Tuesday.

Matchavariani said that violence continues in Georgia and warned that Russian leaders, including Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, who has a KGB background, are experts at concealing the truth.

"Georgia is a test case for Russia to see how the Western world will tolerate its attempts to change the world order," the ambassador warned, adding that Ukraine and other neighboring states could have their autonomy jeopardized by Moscow if the action against Georgia is not handled appropriately by the international community.

Matchavariani said that Western countries, led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who chairs the European Union, and U.S. President George W. Bush, have so far done their best to keep Russian troops from fully occupying his country. NATO foreign ministers have also urged Russia to withdraw its army to avoiding damaging the relationship with the alliance.

"Georgia is on its way to building a democratic country" that respects the rights of minorities, Matchavariani said. "It may take longer, but we are not giving up the fight."

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The Japan Times

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