America has warned that the political battle between Georgia and Russia over two breakaway regions could end in catastrophe. Russian jets are reported to have breached Georgian airspace even as the US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice arrived in Tbilisi to discuss Georgia’s NATO ambitions.
Georgia says four planes flew over separatist South Ossetia for 40 minutes. Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia lie in an arc of land the West sees as a vital route for exporting oil from the Caspian Sea.
Both provinces rejected Georgian rule in the 1990s and are supported by Russia, which has sent in peacekeepers. Tbilisi accuses Moscow of trying to annex the two regions.
Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili, the Georgian Foreign Minister, said: “Every time when the diplomatic activity becomes strong enough to bring the changes to the peace process, meaningful changes, then the Russian Federation does something to jeopardise it. I think we have to make common effort, together with the international community, to stop this behaviour by Russia”.
Outside the Russian embassy in Tbilisi, protestors demanded Moscow stop interfering in Georgian affairs. Russia accuses Georgia of being behind a recent cafe bombing in Abkhazia which killed four people, and the shooting of two people in South Ossetia.