Georgia's president will not attend ceremonies in Moscow marking the 60th anniversary of Nazi Germany's defeat because talks on Friday failed to produce an agreement on the withdrawal of Russian military bases from the former Soviet republic, Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zurabishvili said.
Zurabishvili, speaking after talks in Moscow with Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov, said President Mikhail Saakashvili would also skip a Moscow meeting today of leaders of 12 ex-Soviet states.
"The main agreement ... has still not been reached," Zurabishvili said, adding that "the president will not fly to Moscow the day after tomorrow, because nothing important can be achieved by this trip."
Dozens of world leaders will mark the anniversary of the Allied victory over the Nazis and pay tribute to the Soviet Union's huge contribution.
Zurabishvili had indicated Thursday that Saakashvili could boycott the Victory Day celebrations if no agreement was reached on a timetable for the withdrawal of the two Russian military bases left over from the Soviet era. Russia wants four years to complete the pullout, while Georgia says it must be finished before January 2008 -- less than three years.
The outspoken Saakashvili said earlier Friday that "the occupation of Georgia must end."
Russian Foreign Ministry spokesman Alexander Yakovenko criticized Georgia for linking the base dispute to the Victory day celebrations, calling them "completely different issues." The ministry said Russia is determined to reach an agreement but that it will require "efforts by both sides."
In an attempt to increase pressure on Moscow to compromise, Saakashvili has asked US President George W. Bush to raise the issue with Russian President Vladimir Putin when the two meet today in Moscow.
Bush told reporters in Washington on Thursday that he would bring up the issue with Putin, saying he was willing to "help facilitate dialogue" but that the dispute needed to be resolved between Russia and Georgia.
Earlier this week, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov said it could take up to four years to build the infrastructure in Russia to accommodate servicemen and materiel being withdrawn from Georgia.
But Zurabishvili said the withdrawal "cannot be completed later than January 2008, because we will be entering a very important year when parliamentary and presidential elections will be held."
The long-simmering dispute has strained ties between the ex-Soviet republics, which have been tense since Georgia gained independence in the 1991 Soviet collapse and have soured further since Saakashvili and his pro-Western administration came to power last year.
Henry Tong (湯偉雄) and Elaine To (杜依蘭) were preparing to spend their first wedding anniversary in separate prison cells until their acquittal for rioting during Hong Kong’s pro-democracy protests. There were gasps and tears of relief in court on Friday last week as a judge declared prosecutors had failed to prove that the couple took part in clashes with police in July last year. The pair walked free in a ruling that has potential consequences for hundreds of other protesters facing similar charges. However, they have a long journey ahead as they try to rebuild their lives and business. “We have already been punished,”
WARNINGS OVER COMPLACENCY: The curves of new infections in numerous countries is climbing, while others see the the first new infections in months Spikes in COVID-19 infections in Asia have dispelled any notion that the region might be over the worst, with Australia and India yesterday reporting record daily infections, Vietnam fretting over a new surge and North Korea urging vigilance. Asian nations had largely prided themselves on rapidly containing initial outbreaks after the coronavirus emerged in central China late last year, but flare-ups this month have shown the danger of complacency. “We’ve got to be careful not to slip into some idea that there’s some golden immunity that Australia has in relation to this virus,” Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison told reporters. Australia recorded its
The Australian government yesterday said that it plans to give Google and Facebook three months to negotiate with media businesses fair pay for news content. In releasing a draft of a mandatory code of conduct, Canberra aims to succeed where other nations have failed in making tech firms pay for news siphoned from commercial media companies. Australian Treasurer Josh Frydenberg said that Google and Facebook would be the first platforms targeted by the proposed legislation, but others could follow. “It’s about a fair go for Australian news media businesses, it’s about ensuring that we have increased competition, increased consumer protection and a sustainable
‘COVIDIOTS’: Politicians condemned the protest that came amid surging infections in the country, while a marcher said government-induced fear weakened the body Loudly chanting their opposition to masks and vaccines, thousands of people on Saturday gathered in Berlin to protest against COVID-19 restrictions before being dispersed by police. Police put turnout at about 20,000 — well below the 500,000 organizers had announced as they urged a “day of freedom” from months of virus curbs. Despite Germany’s comparatively low toll, authorities are concerned at a rise in infections over the past few weeks and politicians took to social media to criticize the rally as irresponsible. “We are the second wave,” shouted the crowd, a mixture of hard left and right and conspiracy theorists, as they converged