Russia, France agree on 6 principles to resolve South Ossetia crisis
The presidents of Russia and France agreed Tuesday on six principles to resolve the situation in the Georgian breakaway republic of South Ossetia.
"The first is not to resort to the use of force. The second is to halt all military action. The third is free access to humanitarian aid. The fourth is that Georgian Armed Forces should return to their bases. The fifth is that Russian Armed Forces should pull back to their positions prior to combat," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev told a news conference with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy.
"The sixth is the beginning of international discussions on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and on ways to ensure their security," he added.
Medvedev also said that Georgia's August 8 attack on Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia, should be taken into account when deciding the future status of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian republic. He made reference to the "precedent" of Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence in February, and its subsequent recognition by the United States and the majority of EU countries.
The Russian president added that the residents of the two rebel regions should be consulted on whether they wanted to be part of Georgia.
"They will give an unequivocal answer, an answer that cannot be given by Russia or any other country," he said
Medvedev also accused Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of lying when he said that Georgia had ceased fire two days ago.
"As to the statement made by the Georgian president that a ceasefire has been in place for two days, this is a lie," he said.
Medvedev also commented that Russia's offensive against Georgia was the only possible response to Tbilisi's attack on South Ossetia.
"If Russia had had another way to react to Georgia's aggression against South Ossetia, we would have done this. There was no other way to respond," Medvedev said.
"Bullies differ from normal people in that when they sense blood it's very hard to stop them, and then one is forced to employ surgical methods," he added.
Russia has said that some 1,600 people were killed in Friday's attack on Tskhinvali by Georgian forces. Russia has accused Georgian troops of atrocities, including the burning alive of women and children.
The U.S. led Western condemnation of Russia's military operation to "enforce peace" in South Ossetia, with President George Bush calling Russia's response "disproportionate."
He also said that Russia "has invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatens a democratic government elected by its people."
Sarkozy said at the news conference that Europe was ready to join peacekeeping operations in South Ossetia.
The French leader is due to take the Russian-French peace plan to Tbilisi later this evening.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said however that if Tbilisi rejected the peace plan, Moscow would have to take measures to prevent further violence in South Ossetia.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. Both republics fought vicious wars with Tbilisi that eventually ended in the retreat of Georgian troops and the regions gaining de facto independence.
Georgia alleged, although the claims were unproven, that the rebels had been armed with Russian-supplied military equipment. When the Rose Revolution street protests swept the pro-Western Saakashvili to power in 2004, the new president vowed to bring the regions back under central government control. Russian had earlier granted citizenship to residents of both republics.
Saakashvili also pledged to bring Georgia into NATO. For this to happen, the country's "frozen" conflicts would have to be resolved. Indeed, South Ossetia and Abkhazia were the reason why Georgia was not given a NATO Membership Action Plan in April, objections from Germany and France that doing so would unnecessarily antagonize Russia thwarting U.S. enthusiasm for welcoming Tbilisi into the military alliance.
NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said on Tuesday that a Russia-NATO session on the situation in Georgia and its breakaway republic of South Ossetia would be held in the near future.
[Source: Novosti, Moscow, 12Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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