October 3rd, 2006 04:19 EST
U.S. Welcomes Georgia's Transfer of Accused Russian Officers
The Bush administration welcomes the Georgian government's return of four Russian officers who were charged with spying and encourages Russia and Georgia to "continue steps to de-escalate tensions in the days and weeks ahead."
State Department deputy spokesman Tom Casey told reporters October 2 that the United States has been urging officials from both countries to "work with one another to peacefully resolve the differences." He thanked Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, who serves as the chairman-in-office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, for his assistance in facilitating the transfer of the officers to Russian custody.
The four officers were arrested September 29 and charged with spying amidst an atmosphere of increased tensions between Russia and Georgia. Press reports said the tensions were due to Georgia's growing relationship with NATO, as well as Russia's reported support for separatist movements in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions of Georgia. Russia also announced October 2 that it is imposing sanctions upon Georgia.
Casey reaffirmed U.S. support for Georgia's territorial integrity and called for the peaceful resolution of the conflicts in the two areas.
"We certainly want to see Georgia have good relations with Russia, and Russia have good relations with Georgia," Casey said. "There's a great deal of history there. They are neighboring states, and we certainly want to see them have positive relations. And that's the role that we have been playing in this, is encouraging them to work out these differences."
White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters that President Bush telephoned Russian President Vladimir Putin to discuss the recent tensions in Russian-Georgian relations, as well as other issues such as Iran.
Casey said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also spoke with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during the previous days "simply to encourage them again to work out these differences and to be able to do so in a way that leads to a peaceful resolution of conflict."
Asked about President Putin's recent meetings with the leaders of Akhazia and South Ossetia, Casey said any conversation that helps to promote a resolution that recognizes Georgia's territorial integrity "are obviously positive," but added, "Any ones that don't would not be helpful."
He said the U.S. goal is "to see them work cooperatively with one another in a way that's respectful of each other's rights and in a way that allows for a peaceful resolution of differences."
For more information on U.S. policies, see Europe and Eurasia.
(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)