Russia to Seek UN Arms Embargo Against Georgia

Russia pressed Sept. 9 for a U.N. arms embargo against Georgia as a U.S. team prepared to travel to Tbilisi to assess the needs of its military, which was routed in a Russian blitzkrieg for control of South Ossetia.

"It is in everybody's interest to have an arms embargo against Georgia," Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters after he introduced a draft resolution in the U.N. Security Council calling for the arms ban.

He conceded that some veto-wielding council members, particularly the United States, were likely to oppose the move.

"Strong opposition from some members of the Security Council, particularly the United States can be expected. But we believe it was absolutely necessary to make that political statement by introducing this draft resolution," Churkin told reporters.

He added that Georgia "has been arming very aggressively" over the past years, with its military budget jumping from $18 to 900 million over the past six years.

"We believe it (budget) was put to very bad use as they (the Georgians) attacked South Ossetia" last month, Churkin said. "Proper consequences need to be drawn from that."

He said Moscow believes that "some countries are taking active efforts in order to start rearming Georgia and are allocating large sums of money" for that purpose.

His remarks came as the U.S. Defense Department said Sept. 9 that it was sending a team to Georgia this week to assess requirements to rebuild its military devastated by a five-day Russian military onslaught last month.

Churkin spoke after briefing the 15-member council on Monday's deal under which Moscow pledged to pull back all of its troops from Georgia apart from South Ossetia and Abkhazia within a month.

The deal, brokered by a European delegation headed by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, also envisaged the deployment of 200 EU observers to join 220 other international monitors on the ground.

Sarkozy, the current EU president, was in Moscow in a bid to enforce the terms of a peace deal he brokered last month to end a five-day war between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway provinces.

Russian officials on Sept. 9 pledged military bases and 7,600 troops to protect Abkhazia and South Ossetia, cementing Moscow's dominance of the disputed territories.

And Moscow said it would keep 3,800 troops in each of the regions.

Meanwhile Churkin said that, in light of plans to hold international talks on Abkhazia and South Ossetia in Geneva on Oct. 15, he was proposing an informal meeting of the council to hear official representatives of the two provinces around Oct. 7 or 8.

But Burkina Faso's U.N. Ambassador Michel Kafando, who chairs the council this month, said the proposed meeting "was still under consideration."

Late last month, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev announced that Moscow was formally recognizing South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

Russian troops and armor rolled into Georgia - a strategic corridor for Caspian Sea oil and gas exports that aspires for NATO membership - on August 8 to beat back an offensive by U.S.-trained and equipped Georgian troops to wrest control of South Ossetia from separatists.

Moscow argued that it booted the Georgian troops out to protect thousands of people to whom it had granted Russian citizenship since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union.

U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, who last week toured ex-Soviet U.S. allies including Georgia, on Tuesday accused Russia of directly "violating" the Georgian border.

"The international community is united in deploring Russia's military action and in condemning its unilateral efforts to alter by force of arms Georgia's internationally recognized boundaries," he said.

[Source: Defense News, AFP, UN, 09Sep09]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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