Medvedev says NATO exercises in Georgia 'open provocation' - 2

MOSCOW, April 30 (RIA Novosti) - NATO's plans to hold military exercises in Georgia on May 6-June 1, 2009, are considered to be an "open provocation," according to Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, who warned of negative consequences.

"NATO's plans to hold exercises in Georgia...are an open provocation. Exercises must not be held there where a war has been fought," President Medvedev said. He is concerned that the exercises were assisting in Georgia's rearmament after last year's conflict with Russia over South Ossetia. "We view any actions that could be considered by Tbilisi as encouragement of a course towards the country's remilitarization and the senseless strengthening of military components as measures that run counter to the six principles of conflict settlement agreed last August," he added.

Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told Russia Today international TV channel that the alliance's decision to hold the exercises is "short-sighted." "Now, when the situation in the Caucasus is tense, the decision looks short-sighted and not partner-like. It will hardly help restore our full-fledged relations with the alliance," he explained. He had said a few days before that it was "dangerous to appease the current Georgian regime, which has in no way abandoned attempts to solve its problems via militarization and the use of force."

Georgian Defense Minister David Sikharulidze countered by saying the exercises would not be canceled nor postponed. "The exercises will be launched next week, and they are the necessary ingredient for attaining Georgia's major goal of getting integrated into the North Atlantic alliance," he said.

NATO says the Cooperative Longbow/Cooperative Lancer 2009 command-and-staff exercises were planned before the Russia-Georgia conflict, and that the exercise is open to all ally states, including Russia. Some 1,300 soldiers from 19 member-countries of the alliance and its partners are expected to participate. Serbia said it would not take part and Kazakhstan's defense minister said his country had withdrawn from the exercises.

An anonymous source at the NATO headquarters in Brussels told RIA Novosti that Russia was overreacting. He said the drills are "not the end of the world" and that "no one is being forced" to participate.  (Infowarrior News Service, 4.30.2009)

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