WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States told Russia on Tuesday to tone down its “rhetoric” after a missile attack against Georgia that Moscow and Tbilisi blamed on each other.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Matt Bryza said the United States was still trying to establish what happened and whether Russia was responsible.
But he strongly rejected suggestions by Russia’s foreign ministry that Georgian jets may have fired the missile on their own territory as a way of provoking tensions in the region.
“Clearly, clearly we condemn any attack on Georgian sovereign territory,” Bryza told Reuters. “We can’t say who did what at this point. We have no indication that Georgia targeted itself. That is for sure.”
“We have not seen a shred of evidence to suggest that is what happened,” he added.
Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said the missile, which did not explode, was part of a pattern of Russian aggression against its neighbours across Europe and urged European states to condemn Moscow.
Bryza criticized Russia for what he said were statements aimed at raising tensions between the two and said it would make it harder to reach a settlement over South Ossetia, the Russian-backed breakaway province of Georgia that is a deep cause of friction between the former Soviet states.
“Such rhetoric claiming that Georgia attacked itself is not at all helpful. It raises tensions,” he said.
Saakashvili said earlier that Georgia’s reaction would be one of “remarkable calm” and Bryza, who spoke to the country’s foreign minister during the day, praised Tbilisi for its response so far to the missile.
“The response on the Georgian side has been laudable and measured and what is necessary to prevent a re-escalation of tensions is to move forward on a political resolution of the South Ossetia conflict,” he said.
“It is a time to keep the rhetoric in check and we hope that everybody will be as measured as Georgia has been.”
There was a previous missile attack in March on Georgia’s Kodori Gorge, which Tbilisi blamed on Moscow but Russia said was carried out by Georgia.
“Of this (Tuesday’s) incident we can’t say at all how this fits into previous incidents,” said Bryza.