Page last updated at 18:55 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 19:55 UK

Russia stands by Georgia actions

Sergei Lavrov
Mr Lavrov said Russia's actions were the only way to ensure Abkhazia's security

Russia's foreign minister has said on a visit to the breakaway Georgian region of Abkhazia that Moscow's actions were the only way to guarantee security.

Sergei Lavrov was in the Abkhaz capital Sukhumi less than a week after Russia established diplomatic ties with both it and the South Ossetia region.

Only Russia and Nicaragua recognise the two regions as independent states.

Mr Lavrov also attacked Nato Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer's stance on Moscow's conflict with Georgia.

Mr Scheffer is due to visit the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Monday for the first meeting of a new commission to assess the conflict and Georgia's Nato's membership prospects.

Mr Lavrov is expected in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali on Monday.

Diplomatic challenge

The Russian foreign minister said Russia's actions were the only way to ensure Abkhazia's security as well as that of South Ossetia.

Russia has wasted little time in underlining its recognition of Abkhaz independence with Mr Lavrov's high-level visit, the BBC's Gabriel Gatehouse reports from Tbilisi.

Mr Lavrov threw down a challenge to the international community by saying that discussions on security in the Caucasus were impossible without the two breakaway regions, our correspondent adds.

This raises the prospect that Russia may insist on their participation in future talks including Georgia, the EU and US - all of which are fundamentally opposed to their secession from Georgia.

Speaking about Mr Scheffer, the Russian foreign minister accused him of making statements about Georgia which were "inappropriate for the leader of such a serious organisation [as Nato]".

The Nato secretary general has said the organisation stands by its aim of eventually admitting Georgia and Ukraine as members.

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