Statement of Senator Obama on Tensions in the Caucasus Region Between Georgia and Russia.

Chicago, IL — “Over the last several weeks, Russia and Georgia have been engaged in a steadily more dangerous confrontation over two secessionist regions of Georgia — South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Although these territories are located within Georgia’s internationally-recognized borders, the Russian government seems determined to challenge Georgia’s territorial integrity in both places. Developments took an especially provocative turn several days ago when four Russian warplanes violated Georgian airspace close to the Georgian capital for forty minutes.

All parties — Russia first and foremost — must now reduce tensions, avoid the risks of war, and reengage in peaceful negotiations.

As I stated in April of this year, I am committed to upholding the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia. This commitment has long been a fundamental building block of U.S. policy, and it will not change under an Obama Administration. I also affirm Georgia’s right to pursue NATO membership. This aspiration in no way threatens the legitimate defense interests of Georgia’s neighbors.

Only a political settlement can resolve the conflicts over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Russia needs to roll back the aggressive actions it has taken in the last three months. The Georgian government must resist the temptation to be drawn into a military conflict. All parties must make clear that they are committed to a diplomatic settlement and will not seek to resolve this dispute by force.

The international community must become more active in trying to defuse this confrontation. The fact that Russia has become a party to the conflict means that Russia is not qualified to play the role of a mediator. The visit to Georgia by German Foreign Minister Steinmeier this week was a positive, important step towards establishing a larger role for the European Union. The Euro-Atlantic community must speak with one voice in helping to promote peace in this volatile region. As part of the de-escalation process, a multilateral peacekeeping force must eventually replace the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed in Abkhazia.”

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