February 7, 2009 / 4:05 AM / 9 years ago

US regrets Russia plan for bases in Georgia regions

WASHINGTON, Feb 6 (Reuters) - The U.S. government voiced regret on Friday at Russia's plan to set up military bases in separatist regions of Georgia, saying it violated cease-fire agreements between Moscow and Tbilisi.

The State Department said Russia agreed after its brief war with Georgia last year to return its forces to prewar numbers and locations in the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"This latest announced build-up of the Russian Federation's military presence in the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without the consent of the Georgian Government would clearly violate that commitment," said Robert Wood, acting spokesman at the State Department.

Russia's plans include establishing a naval base at the port of Ochamchire and army bases in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in addition to the possible deployment of combat aircraft, the State Department said.

Wood added the bases would "violate Georgia's sovereignty and territorial integrity," to which Russia committed itself in U.N. Security Council resolutions.

Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August when Russian troops repelled a Georgian assault on South Ossetia, which threw off Georgian rule in the early 1990s.

A NATO spokesman said on Friday that NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Ivanov "agreed to disagree" on Russian plans to establish military bases in Georgia in the first NATO-Russia political level contacts since Russia's war with Georgia.

Last month, a senior Georgian member of parliament said Russia's move to establish a naval base and an airbase in Abkhazia was in breach of international law. (Reporting by Christopher Doering, Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom in Germany; Editing by Peter Cooney)

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