Georgia has offered rebel South Ossetian forces an immediate ceasefire, after heavy clashes killed two Georgian peacekeepers, and wounded three more.
President Mikheil Saakashvili said he does not want war with his breakaway region, and blamed Russia for stoking the flames.
“This worsening confrontation is not in Russia’s interests, and of course it is not in Georgia’s interests either,” he said. “But whatever is happening at the moment is the result of a long term policy in this region. It is the result of hysterical militarization, of rhetoric or propaganda carried out by the Russian media.”
South Ossetia rejected Georgian rule in the 1990s. It has financial and military backing from Moscow, which has been infuriated by Tbilisi’s desire to join NATO. Worsening violence has raised fears of a full-blown war in the Caucasus, where the West and Russia are vying for influence over vital energy supply routes.
Russia has warned it will not remain “indifferent” if fighting erupts on its southern border. But Washington has agreed to work with Moscow to find a solution and stop the fighting.