WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Monday that Russia has not met its obligations to withdraw troops from Georgia under a French-brokered ceasefire agreement.
“There continues to be a large presence of Russian forces in Georgia,” U.S. Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman told reporters. “It’s fair to say that they are still not living up to the terms of the ceasefire agreement.”
French President Nicolas Sarkozy brokered the truce but the plan is vaguely worded and Russia claims a mandate to keep large numbers of troops in Georgia, a small but strategically important country with a pro-Western leader and two major energy pipelines.
Moscow has withdrawn most of its forces from central and western Georgia and says those still in place are peacekeepers needed to avert more bloodshed and protect the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
At the request of U.S. President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney will visit Georgia early next month on a trip that will also take him to Ukraine, Azerbaijan and Italy, the White House said on Monday.
“The president felt it was important to have the vice president consult with allies in the region on our common security interests,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said in Texas, where Bush was spending two weeks at his ranch.
Georgia, a former Soviet state, and the West object to the scale of the Russian-imposed buffer zone adjoining the two rebel regions, which hands Moscow pressure points on key oil and trade routes through Georgia to the Black Sea.
Western governments have been alarmed in particular by the presence of Russian troops around Poti, Georgia’s busiest Black Sea port.
The State Department, in a travel warning issued on Saturday for Americans in Georgia, said Russian troops remained in parts of the country, including Poti, Zugidi and Senake.
“The Department of State urges U.S. citizens in Georgia to exercise caution while traveling,” the travel warning said.
Whitman said the Pentagon’s mission to rush humanitarian aid to Georgia has reached a cost of $1 million (500,000 pounds) a day, including the delivery of 774 tons (702 tonnes) of supplies by air and more by sea through the Georgian port of Batumi.
The United States has spent $18.3 million so far on assistance for Georgia, with about $7.2 million of it coming from the Defense Department, Whitman said.
The guided missile destroyer USS McFaul arrived on Sunday with aid including cots, bedding, tents and mobile kitchen units. Whitman said.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Dallas has been dispatched with aid, while a third vessel, the Navy command ship USS Mount Whitney, is being loaded in Italy with humanitarian supplies for Georgia.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Pelofsky in Crawford, Texas; Editing by John O'Callaghan