MOSCOW, Oct 26 (Reuters) NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer today expressed hope that Russia would lift punitive measures imposed on Georgia over what Moscow says are moves to use force against separatist regions.
''It is important for all parties, for the two parties in fact, to show restraint, moderation and deescalation,'' de Hoop Scheffer told a news conference after talks in Moscow.
''I hope that in this framework it will also be possible that some of the measures that had been taken in this conflict by the Russian Federation could be lifted.'' Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili, propelled to power on the back of 2003 ''Rose Revolution'' protests, says his nation is being punished by Moscow for its aspiration to move closer to the West and its desire to regain two separatist regions.
Pro-Moscow South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away after bloody wars in the early 1990s. The two rebel regions enjoy Moscow's financial and moral support, and Russia has been issuing its passports to locals.
Ties between former imperial master Russia and its southern neighbour, which seeks NATO membership and closer ties with the European Union, plunged to an all-time low after Tbilisi briefly detained four Russian officers on spying charges last month.
Moscow hit back by cutting all rail, air, sea and postal links with the tiny Caucasus nation of five million.
In what human rights bodies termed a xenophobic campaign, hundreds of ethnic Georgians -- branded illegal migrants by the authorities -- were deported from Russia by cargo airplanes. One of the deportees died at a Moscow airport.
Russian television channels have shown masked policemen raiding casinos, markets and restaurants in Moscow and other cities which are officially said to be held ''by Georgian criminals''.
REUTERS DKB HT1855