UN Security Council deadlocked over South Ossetia truce call

The UN Security Council failed again Saturday in its attempt to agree on a truce call for the parties involved in the bitter fighting in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia.

On Saturday afternoon, the 15-member body concluded its third round of an emergency session in the past 48 hours without adopting a statement that would have called for a cease-fire.

In a briefing to the council at the closed-door meeting, UN Assistant Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Edmond Mulet said hostilities are continuing in Georgia and there have been a "substantial number of casualties, refugees and destruction."

Citing reports from UN peacekeepers in the region, Mulet expressed concerns that the conflict may spread into Abkhazia, another rebel enclave inside Georgia.

Belgian UN Ambassador Jan Grauls, the council's president this month, told reporters that several council members expressed "grave concern on the further deterioration of the situation in Georgia."

"It is clear that the conflict has now expanded in other areas than only South Ossetia," he said.

When asked about the council's attempt to call for a cease-fire, Grauls said it would be nearly impossible for the council to take any actions at the moment.

"Regrettably I have come to the conclusion that it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to find common ground within the council on a draft statement to the press," Grauls said.

The Security Council had met late night Thursday and early Friday but failed to agree on a Russia-drafted statement that would call on Georgia and South Ossetian rebels to renounce the use of force.

Georgia, backed by the United States and some other council members, rejected the wording calling for the renunciation of force.

Later on Friday afternoon, the council failed for the second time after holding open and closed consultations to discuss a revised version which would instead call on the warring parties to "show restraint and to refrain from any further acts of violence or force."

After Saturday's consultations, Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy ambassador to the United Nations, urged Russia to stop its military offensive, withdraw its troops from Georgia and accept international mediation efforts.

"The first thing that has to happen is that violence has got to stop and that foreign forces will have to be withdrawn," Wolff told reporters.

But "Russia somehow thinks it is exempt from all the calls to cease violence, from all the calls to withdraw," Wolff said.

Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said that Georgia should first withdraw its forces from South Ossetia and sign with the rebels an agreement on the non-use of force, and "then we can talk about a variety of other things including military and political arrangements."

On the council's failure to pass a cease-fire statement, Churkin blamed some council members for "procrastinating and attaching all sort of conditions" to the Russian draft.

"Unfortunately, the Security Council has lately been behind events," he said. "I am not sure we are now at the point when the Security Council can pass a document or even a press statement which would be meaningful."

South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in the early 1990s and was governed by a secessionist government since then although its independence has not been internationally recognized.

On Friday, Georgian troops began a military action against South Ossetia's forces in an attempt to re-establish control over the region. In response, Russian troops moved into the region to fight the Georgian forces. Its warplanes also bombed the region.

Russia said the two-day conflict has killed 1,500 people and that the death toll is expected to rise.

[Source: Xinhua, UN, 09Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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