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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Lavrov Says Georgia Wants U.S. Involved

Moscow welcomes the work of EU monitors deployed in Georgia to monitor a cease-fire but is opposed to the United States having a role, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Wednesday.

Lavrov was speaking after President Dmitry Medvedev discussed Georgia with U.S. President Barack Obama by phone late Tuesday.

Russia sees the monitors as a force to prevent any concentration of Georgian forces in areas bordering South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Georgia, keen to get Western support in its standoff with Russia, asked the United States last month to join the EU monitoring mission — although the European Union itself has not made any such request to Washington.

Lavrov said the Georgian request was part of a plan to drag the United States into a confrontation.

“The idea is absolutely clear, and we honestly told this to our U.S. colleagues,” Lavrov said. “This is all about dragging Americans into Georgia and pitching them against the Russian military.

“After that, the Georgian masters of provocation … will try doing their traditional job,” he added. “The risks of this are clear, and Europe and the United States understand them.”

Meanwhile, Anatoly Nogovitsyn, a deputy chief of the General Staff, said the Russian military thought that the Georgian military was not capable of mounting a new offensive.

“We don’t see a capability for any kind of aggression,” he told a news conference, adding that the political atmosphere in Georgia would make launching new military action a “political suicide” for the Georgian leadership.

Russia’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday that Russian troops in South Ossetia had been put on increased combat-readiness in response to Georgian “provocations.” But Nogovitsyn said the military did not foresee any immediate threat from Georgia and has no intention of launching any action.

Medvedev called Obama to discuss the situation in Georgia, the Kremlin said in a statement late Tuesday, adding that they also discussed arms control, the Middle East and Iran.

“An exchange of opinions on the lessons of last year’s Georgian crisis took place,” the statement said.

Georgia and Russia blame each other for recent provocations over the separatist-held South Ossetia.

Only Russia and Nicaragua recognize the independence of South Ossetia, and Obama said during a recent Moscow summit that Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected.

On Tuesday, U.S. officials said they had not ruled out providing defensive weapon systems for Georgia, despite warnings by Russia.

Assistant Secretary of Defense Alexander Vershbow told lawmakers at a Senate hearing that U.S. military aid to Georgia was focused on training and modernization of Georgia’s military.

But he added that “other forms of assistance can take place. Nothing is off the table.”

Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon said at the same hearing that there “is no arms embargo on Georgia,” although Russia has threatened sanctions against countries or firms selling Russian- or Soviet-designed weapons to Tbilisi.

The United States is discussing a Georgian request for $16 million in military aid this year, with most of the money intended for training and technical assistance.

n Nogovitsyn also said Wednesday that Russia considered the four U.S. Humvees seized by the Russian military in the five-day conflict in Georgia last August to be war trophies and thus has no obligation to return them.

They had been used in joint military exercises in which U.S. trainers were preparing Georgian troops for deployment in Iraq. Nogovitsyn told reporters that Russia considered the subject closed.

(AP, Reuters)