VILNIUS - The Lithuanian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has criticized a vote by the Russian Duma to recognize the breakaway Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent nations.
The ministry sees the decision as intended to destabilize Georgia's territorial integrity and therefore unacceptable under both international law and good neighborhood policy.
"It cannot go by unnoticed that Russia's Duma made its decisions regarding recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia unilaterally and without considering consequences to international peace, security and the authority of the United Nations organization to be brought about by this decision. By questioning Georgia's territorial integrity, Russia is taking a dangerous path," the Foreign Ministry said in a press release Monday.
Lithuanian Foreign Minister Petras Vaitiekunas said that he did not hear any threats of worsening relations between Lithuania and Russia due to Vilnius' support for Georgia.
"No threats to worsen these relations were voiced. I think that Lithuania and Russia should focus on the discussion of value issues and, naturally, on the discussion of pragmatic issues and the development of pragmatic relations between Lithuania and Russia," Vaitiekunas said.
The Foreign Minister did concede that he and the Russian ambassador, Vladimir Chkhikvadze, maintain different stands.
"We just stated the fact that our viewpoints might differ on this issue, especially when the Russian Duma adopted the statement urging the Russian government to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Vaitiekunas said.
Vaitiekunas pointed out that decisions made by the Russian parliament also breach valid cooperation agreements between the European Union and Russia.
"I think that Lithuania sees this crisis in a very objective way. I indicated the Lithuanian stand in our conversation 's it is based upon the recognition of Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty, just like the stand of the European Union and NATO," Vaitiekunas said. He added that these issues should not be addressed by using force.
Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma ,voted in favor of recognizing Georgia's separatist regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states during an extraordinary session Monday.
The BBC World Service quoted a parliamentarian Monday after the extraordinary session who said the recognition of the breakaway provinces was intended to allow Russia to "protect" them with their security forces.
The resolution to urge Russian president Dmitri Medvedev to officially recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as states independent from Georgia came about in the Duma after a similar resolution was made by the upper house of parliament, the Federation Council.
The resolutions by the State Duma and the Federation Council are not legally binding. Formally, states can be recognized as independent after approval of the Foreign Ministry under a proposal of the president.
Lithuanian politicians and citizens have kept a close eye on the situation in Georgia and are sensitive about events in the country. Lithuania has taken a solid stance against the use of force and military actions, and encourages finding a peaceful way to resolve the conflict.
"Lithuania is not looking for a contraposition in its relations with Russia. Lithuania is rather looking for positive steps to make. We have also scheduled a wide range of constructive points on the agenda of bilateral relations, which we would like to apply to solve chronic issues," the MFA press release said.