Washington briefing: U.S., Russia say both want Caucasus stability, but disagree on Georgia

by Emil Sanamyan

Published: Friday May 08, 2009

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia at the State Dept. on May 7, 2009. State Dept. photo Washington -

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov of Russia met in Washington on May 7 to discuss a long list of issues on U.S.-Russia agenda. Mr. Lavrov was also received by President Barack Obama, who confirmed plans to visit Russia in July.

The meeting was preceded by a fresh row between Russia and U.S.-led NATO over the alliance's military exercise in Georgia that began this week, as well as NATO's expulsion of Russian diplomats amid allegations of spying.

At a joint press conference, Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Lavrov both sought to emphasize areas of cooperation, including recently launched strategic arms reduction talks and Middle East priorities such talks with Iran and efforts to stabilize Afghanistan.

Mr. Lavrov said the South Caucasus was among the issues discussed and that while the United States and Russia continued to "have obvious differences" they agreed on "need to do [their] best in order to achieve stability there."

The NATO exercise in Georgia went ahead despite reports of a mutiny in one of the Georgian military units, which the Tbilisi government claimed was attempted by military officers and former officials who had served under ex-President Eduard Shevardnadze (1992–2003).

Mr. Shevardnadze, who was ousted by current president Mikheil Saakashvili, has in recent months been criticizing his successor with increased frequency.

Following reports of mutiny, which the government said it was able to quickly diffuse by arresting dozens of suspects, opposition groups clashed with police for the first time since they launched a thus-far unsuccessful campaign to oust Mr. Saakashvili nearly a month ago.

On May 7, in a move long encouraged by the U.S. government, opposition parties issued a statement saying they were ready to meet with Mr. Saakashvili in a bid to avoid further confrontation.

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