U.S. Urges Cease-Fire in Conflict Between Russia, Georgia

Published August 08, 2008

| FoxNews.com

The United States is calling for an immediate cease fire between Georgia and Russia, administration officials said Friday, adding that the U.S. supports Georgia’s territorial rights in the flashpoint conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia.

Though Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili seemed to place a certain burden on the United States to intervene, U.S. officials are speaking with both countries and a U.S. envoy is traveling to the region to try to end hostilities.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called on Russia to halt attacks in South Ossetia.

"The United States calls for an immediate ceasefire to the armed conflict in Georgia's region of South Ossetia," Rice said in a statement. "We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil."

Rice also said Russia should respect Georgian sovereignty and agree to international mediation to end the crisis that threatens to engulf the volatile region. "We urgently seek Russia's support of these efforts," she said.

The White House said President Bush discussed the situation with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin while both leaders were in Beijing for the start of the Olympics.

Pentagon officials said they have been in contact with Georgian officials and they have made no requests for assistance at this point. Georgia is considered a key Western ally in the region.

“We are monitoring it very closely,” Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said.

“The United States is engaged in an effort with both of these parties. We urge both parties to resolve this peacefully and refrain from violence,” a State Department official told FOXNews.com. “We also urge all parties to engage in direct talks.”

State Department spokesman Gonzalo Gallegos told reporters Friday that Rice is urging all parties to remain calm in calls to top officials.

"We support Georgia's territorial integrity," Gallegos said. "We are working on mediation efforts to secure a cease-fire."

White House press secretary Dana Perino echoed those statements, saying, "we are urging the parties to restart their dialogue."

The diplomatic scramble came after Georgian troops launched a major military offensive to regain control over South Ossetia. The fighting prompted a furious response from Russia, which vowed retaliation and sent a column of tanks into the region.

It was the worst outbreak of hostilities since the province won de facto independence in a war that ended in 1992.

In an interview Friday with a cable news channel, the Georgian president claimed Russia was fighting a war with his country, and that its alliance with the United States was part of the root cause.

“They are unhappy with our closeness with the United States, with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, with the West in general,” Saakashvili said in the interview. “They've always told us, ‘We'll hit at you because you're so close to the United States.’”

NATO recently agreed to make Georgia a member of its alliance

Saakashvili added: “It's not about Georgia anymore, it's about America, its values.”

Robert McFarlane, former national security adviser under President Reagan, told FOX News the United States "doesn't have the immediate obligation" to respond.

"This is essentially a European problem, however it is important that the United States stay engaged, because after all it is a clash between a great power seeking to throw its weight around, and to oppose the legitimate rights of sovereign Georgia to defend itself," he said.

According to Whitman, the U.S. has about 130 trainers in Georgia, including a few dozen civilians, who are all working to prepare the Georgian forces for their next deployment to Iraq. All of those U.S. trainers, he said, have been accounted for, none have been injured, and there are currently no plans to pull them out of the country.

He said the trainers are in the Tbilisi area, but would not say exactly where.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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