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“You’ve got to go”, the world says, yet again

By David Matsaberidze
Monday, August 25
The international community remains actively concerned by developments in Georgia. Several high ranking US and EU officials have visited the country, expressing their hope that Russia withdraws from the country. They have stated that the situation as of August 6 should be immediately restored, and the internationalization of the peacekeeping process has been set as the priory short term target.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband expressed his concern over what he said was Russia's failure to completely live up to its pledges on pulling back troops from Georgia. Miliband said that reports of a Russian military pullback looked like “a step forward”. But he added: “I remain deeply concerned that Russian forces have not withdrawn to the... position as agreed. It is imperative that Russian forces fully and speedily implement and abide by the commitments that it (Russia) has made.”

The German Government said on August 23 that Russia had yet to fully comply with the commitments it had undertaken in the six-point ceasefire accord. “The [German] government expects Russia to complete the withdrawal immediately in accordance with the six-point plan signed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and pull back its troops to the lines [held] before the outbreak of hostilities, as was agreed,” German government spokesman Thomas Steg stated. In a separate statement, Steg also said that Chancellor Merkel had proposed that the EU hold “a neighbourhood conference” for Georgia. The German weekly magazine Der Spiegel said Merkel’s idea would see the neighbouring countries of Armenia and Azerbaijan participate in the conference, but not Russia, Reuters reported.

Richard Lugar, a member of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is paying an official visit to Georgia. The Senator held meetings with Georgian senior ministers and Members of Parliament from both the opposition and ruling parties. Lugar has already held a meeting with Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili.

The Senator discussed the Georgia crisis and ways to resolve the conflict with Russia with Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze. After official negotiations, Richard Lugar met IDPs who fled from their homes in the Shida Kartli and Tskhinvali regions during the Russian military aggression.

Spokesmen for the White House also said on August 23 that Russia had yet to fully comply. “Putting up permanent facilities and checkpoints are inconsistent with the agreement,” White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said. “We are in contact with the various parties to obtain clarification.” Finnish Foreign Minister and OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Alexander Stubb, also declared the French-brokered ceasefire to be under serious threat. After the meetings with Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili and the State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili, Stubb stated that “the world should use all available resources to ensure the fulfillment of the ceasefire agreement and the pullout of Russian forces from Georgia”. Mr. Stubb said 20 military monitors would arrive in Georgia to observe the process of the withdrawal and report the OSCE about the implementation of the truce.

In the light of this French President Nicolas Sarkozy urged his Russian counterpart Dimitry Medvedev to remove Russian troops from the west of Georgia, in particular from Poti and Senaki. Sarkozy said that OSCE international peacekeepers will be placed in the region, as agreed with his Russian counterpart. Russia however has released a response arguing that Sarkozy has misinterpreted the Russian position, as Russia has only expressed its readiness to cooperate with the OSCE and allow international monitors to operate in the so-called ''buffer zones''.

All of these statements prompted Georgian and Western ministers to blame Russia for violating the French-brokered pullout agreement. The foreign media is still actively talking about a Georgian-Russian conflict. There are already analytical articles about the current situation. Some Russian press releases express the opinion that in the long-term perspective Russia is the loser in this confrontation. Analysts admit that if not in Tskhinvali, war would have broken out in Kodori anyway. Today there is unified opinion in the West that Russia has to comply with the obligations it took on when it signed the ceasefire agreement, a unity created by this conflict.

Two US Democratic Congressmen have now arrived in Tbilisi and held negotiations with the President of Georgia. The U.S. Congress has stated that it is ready to help restore the civil infrastructure in Georgia. Howard Berner and George Miller visited Parliament as well, where they met with Chairman of Parliament David Bakradze. They once again confirmed the US’s strong support for Georgia’s territorial integrity. Congressmen have underlined once again that the primary and most important step in conflict resolution is the withdrawal of the Russian army from Georgian territory.

Ukraine has become more active and sensitive towards developments in Georgia. President Yushchenko recently agreed an increase in the state’s defence budget, at the same time confirming the possibility that Ukraine could play a decisive role in peacekeeping operations in Georgia's conflict regions, as Georgian Parliament Speaker Davit Bakradze announced at the briefing held after the meeting with his Ukrainian counterpart, Konstantin Eliseev. Eliseev reiterated Ukraine’s support of the Georgian Government and announced that Ukraine was prepared to provide humanitarian aid to Georgia. Ukraine has already sent 24 tonnes of firefighting equipment and ammunition to Georgia.

On August 21, the UN Security Council failed to make a decision on a Russia-submitted resolution on Georgia. Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin vetoed the draft resolution proposed by the West and tried to convince member states to approve a Russian draft. Churkin stated that the main objection of some Security Council members was the absence of Georgia’s ''territorial integrity'' in the draft resolution. He explained that the document copied the six principles of the peace plan for Georgia agreed by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and his French counterpart Nicolas Sarkozy, whereas US Ambassador to the United Nations Alejandro Wolfe called for the resolution to include ''territorial integrity'' as one of its provisions as all previous documents on Georgia had done.