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Support us … Saakashvili tells UN

By David Matsaberidze
Thursday, September 25
The President of Georgia, Mikheil Saakashvili, addressed the 63rd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on September 23. His speech gave an account of the Russia-Georgia conflict and a critique of the recognition of the separatist regions and outlined the broader threats to the international community implicit in Russia’s actions in Georgia. Saakashvili called for an international investigation of the developments of August, 2008 and called on the world to defend the principles of the UN.

Saakashvili urged the world to adhere to the following principles in addressing the Georgia crisis: it should refuse to remain silent, refuse to recognize the breakaway regions as independent, remain fully committed to ensuring the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and engage in meaningful conflict resolution processes. Saakashvili allegorically voiced the need for a “Second Rose Revolution” in Georgia, in response to the Russian aggression. As the Rose Revolution of 2003 was aimed at the eradication of corruption and related internal problems, the second one should oppose external threats, and create a Georgia “stronger and more democratic than ever before”, as the President put it.

Saakashvili particularly stressed the need to defend and firmly adhere to UN principles. He stated that the recent developments in Georgia were an assault upon fundamental UN principles enshrined in its founding charter – the inviolability of sovereign borders, the sanctity of human rights, the supremacy of international law and the global rejection of armed aggression. “All of these principles were put to the test by the invasion, and now hang in the balance,” Saakashvili stressed. Saakashvili termed the upholding of these principles as the major challenge the UN is facing currently and said that the future of the organization depends on its reaction to the events in Georgia.

Saakashvili vented open criticism of the Russian Federation, “I come to you as the representative of Georgia, a country of fewer than 5 million, which last month was invaded by its neighbour.” The President of Georgia promised the full assistance of Georgia for any independent investigation. Saakashvili said that Russia should also participate in the investigation, stressing that “the aggressor tries to win by forceful methods, whereas we will be victorious via democratic values. Our response to aggression is democracy.” Saakashvili said he hoped Georgia would become the model of democratic development in the region. “Georgia was attacked because it is a successful democracy in our part of the world …We will fight the spectre of aggression and authoritarianism with the most potent weapons in our arsenal; namely our commitment to ever-expanding freedoms within our own borders,” the President of Georgia remarked.

He also reiterated that “Investigators [into the causes of the conflict] must have unimpeded access to all officials, documents and intelligence. My Government is ready to share every piece of evidence and provide access to every witness sought by investigators. We call on the other party to this conflict [referring to Russia] to fully cooperate and not obstruct this investigation.” Saakashvili stressed the need for the investigation to study the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in the occupied territories, the full-scale campaign of cyber-warfare and the sickening campaign of ‘ecocide’, in which Russian combat helicopters dropped fire bombs on ancient forests in Borjomi. He said that “The truth must come out, not only to clarify how events unfolded last month, but to help us answer the fundamental questions that this invasion raised.”

The President of Georgia once again stressed that he had been warning the world about Russian preparations for an invasion of Georgia, adding that if the international community now “fail[ed] to rise to the challenge, I fear that the violence and methods that subverted state sovereignty in Georgia will spread to other parts of the world.” Saakashvili promised the international community that the Government of Georgia will implement the new democratic initiatives that would constitute a second Rose Revolution and thus be in a better position to contribute to collective security and prosperity.

Before the address to the UN session, Saakashvili met Condoleezza Rice for a private discussion. The leader of the pro-Tbilisi Provisional Administration of South Ossetia, Dimitry Sanakoev, also paid a visit to New York, aimed at drawing the attention of the international community to the needs of the region. Sanakoev aims to attend the session of the Atlantic Council dedicated to the existing conflicts in the Caucasus.

In response to Saakashvili’s speech the Presidents of France and Lithuania joined his criticism of Russia. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad however blamed the West for the Russia-Georgia war. He maintained that NATO “provocations” were responsible for it, saying that “The lives, properties and rights of the people of Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia are the victims of the tendencies and provocations of NATO and certain Western powers and the underhanded actions of Zionists.” Ahmadinejad considers that US hegemony in the world is now at an end.

After his speech Mikheil Saakashvili addressed Georgians living in New York who had gathered in front of the UN building bearing posters urging people to support Georgia. The President told them how important it was to be Georgian and recalled his sufferings while living abroad. “Now I walk the streets and meet a lot of people expressing their support for Georgia – after the conflict the ordinary people back Georgia. Politicians can change their minds often but when one country has the support of the common people nothing can change that fact in a democratic world,” Saakashvili said.