Thursday, March 12, 2009

South Ossetia to allow Russian bases for 99 years: report

Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia said Wednesday it was prepared to allow Russian forces to use its territory for military bases for up to 99 years, the Interfax news agency reported.

South Ossetian leader Eduard Kokoity said his government had decided "to concede territory to install Russian border guard bases in the republic for 99 years," Interfax reported.
"Territory for the creation of military bases will be conceded, I think, for the same time period," he added.

Kokoity expressed hope that agreements on Russian bases will be signed "as quickly as possible" so they could then be ratified by the breakaway region's parliament.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili meanwhile said Wednesday that Georgia was reorganising its military strategy to focus more on national defence.

"Previously the Georgian armed forces were trained within the framework of international cooperation for peacekeeping purposes... now the Georgian army will be trained to ensure peace in Georgia, so that no one will try again to start a war," he told soldiers in remarks shown live on Rustavi-2 television.

Georgian Defence Minister David Sikharulidze told AFP Friday that the country is planning to revamp its military to boost defence capabilities in order to better defend the country from invasion.

Georgia and Russia remain deeply at odds after a brief war between the two countries over South Ossetia last August.

Russian troops and tanks poured into Georgia in response to a Georgian military attempt to retake the Moscow-backed rebel region.

Russian forces occupied swathes of territory and bombed targets across Georgia before mostly withdrawing to within South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia. Abkhaz separatist leader Sergei Bagapsh told Interfax earlier this month that the province would soon sign an agreement allowing Russia to station a base there for 49 years.

Russia's plans to keep thousands of troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia have angered Tbilisi and its Western allies, who say it violates the ceasefire that ended the war.

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