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The threat of war between Georgia and Russia is still relevant,
The threat of war between Georgia and Russia is still relevant, the president of the ex-Soviet Caucasus state said on Thursday.

The statement came shortly after a dispute between the two over the alleged downing of a Georgian drone over breakaway Abkhazia, where Russian peacekeepers are deployed, and with Moscow and Tbilisi trading accusations of military expansion in the territory.

"I believe we were very close [to war with Russia], and this threat remains in place," Mikheil Saakashvili told reporters, adding that Georgia did not want armed conflict.

"Georgia cannot wage a war with Russia, it has insufficient military capabilities for that, and NATO will not help us," Saakashvili said, adding that attempts to annex part of Georgian territory would trigger reverberations in Russia's troubled North Caucasus region.

Saakashvili also said he sought better ties with Russia, "but not at the expense of our territory."

The latest rise in tensions between Russia and Georgia was fueled by Moscow's decision to step up ties with Abkhazia and the other Georgian breakaway region, South Ossetia. The move was prompted by Georgia's NATO bid and Western recognition of Kosovo's independence from Serbia. Russia, however, has not recognized Georgia's rebel regions.

Two weeks ago, Georgia accused Russia of shooting down its unmanned drone over Abkhazia, which Tbilisi considers its sovereign territory. Moscow has denied involvement in the incident.

Abkhazia has since claimed it had downed several more Georgian reconnaissance planes, with the last one having reportedly been shot down today. Tbilisi denied the downings.

Russia, which has run peacekeepers in Abkhazia and South Ossetia since bloody conflicts in the 1990s, dispatched additional troops to Abkhazia recently to deter what it calls a planned Georgian military offensive. Tbilisi accuses Russian troops of siding with separatists and calls for replacing them with an international contingent.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Saakashvili said Tbilisi could sign a non-aggression deal with its breakaway regions on condition "an effective peacekeeping format" be ensured in the conflict zones.


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