Bush urges Moscow to halt bombings in Georgia
The conflict is putting Russia's relations with the West under fresh strain,
with US President George Bush urging Moscow to halt its bombings in Georgia.
Georgia's pro-West government also called for a ceasefire as two of its towns
were hit by Russian air strikes today.
But Russian President Dmitri Medvedev insisted Georgian troops must first
withdraw from South Ossetia.
The fighting erupted when Georgia launched a large-scale military operation to
retake South Ossetia, a breakaway province which has had de facto independence
Russia, which has strong ties with South Ossetian separatists, claimed about
1,500 civilians were killed in the offensive and deployed its own troops to the
area in response.
Moscow insists it is merely trying to keep the peace in South Ossetia but
Georgia has declared a state of war.
There has also been a build-up of troops around Abkhazia, another Georgian
province which has been seeking international recognition of its independence
since the early 1990s.
As the international community desperately tries to stave off a prolonged
conflagration which could impact on energy supplies, foreign ministers were
planning to hold an emergency meeting in Paris on Monday.
Britons were urged against all but essential travel to Georgia today as the
Foreign Office upgraded its advice.
It is also advising against any travel at all in South Ossetia or Abkhazia.
Defence Secretary Des Browne insisted that efforts to secure a ceasefire had to
take precedence over the the political blame game.
``I don't think we should be at this stage looking to attribute blame,'' he
``The fact of the matter is that this is an almost intractable situation which
has been in a state of many crises for some time.
``What we have to do is focus on an immediate ceasefire, apart from anything
else because the violence is having appalling consequences for innocent
Mr Browne signalled humanitarian assistance would be available, but warned
continued fighting would hold that up.
``You can't expect people to go into a situation in which conflict is currently
raging to do that,'' he told Sky News.
``But we are, as part of our discussions with our partners, looking at the way
in which we can support those communities that will find themselves with
effectively refugees, although they may well be internally displace, to look
after. ``So we will be at the forefront of that as we always are.''