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Tagliavini: everyone lost in August 2008

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Thursday, April 29
“There are no winners and losers in this conflict: everyone has lost,” Ambassador Heidi Tagliavini stated while summarising her fact-finding report on the 2008 Russian Georgian war at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg on April 28. She said all parties to the conflict had failed and a violation of humanitarian and human rights law took place in the region.

Tagliavini, a Swiss diplomat who chaired the international commission probing the Georgia-Russia August War 2008, again reiterated that full scale aggression was begun by Georgia which “triggered off the war” with a heavy artillery attack on Tskhinvali, emphasising however that this attack was not an isolated event but a culmination of years of mounting tensions for which all sides bear responsibility. “In the mission’s view, it was Georgia which triggered off the war when it attacked Tskhinvali with heavy artillery on the night of 7 to 8 of August, 2008,” she said. “None of the explanations given by the Georgian authorities in order to provide some form of legal justification for the attack formed a valid explanation. In particular, to the best of the mission’s knowledge, there was no massive Russian military invasion underway which had to be stopped by Georgian military forces shelling Tskhinvali,” Tagliavini stated at the session.

While talking about Russia’s role in this conflict Tagliavini stated that Russia is also to be blamed for violationa of international law. She highlighted Russia’s mass passportisation in both Abkhaiza and South Ossetia, which, she said was another example of international law violation. She also cited the military action by the Russian armed forces on Georgian territory which went far beyond the needs of proportionate defence of Russian peacekeepers in Tskhinvali. Tagliavini stated that "Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty [over these regions] are beyond question and recognition of the two entities is not valid in the context of international law. The Russian recognition of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states must be considered as being invalid in the context of international law and as violations of Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” Tagliavini said.

Tagliavini said that the claims of Moscow and Tskhinvali that genocide had been committed against the South Ossetian population by Georgia are “not substantiated”, adding that serious indications of the ethnic cleansing of Georgians in South Ossetian villages are shown. She underlined that the international community bears its own share of responsibility for this and criticised the OSCE and UN for their “passive and non-innovative approach to the peace processes”.

“When in early spring 2008 the international community eventually realised the seriousness of the situation and deployed intense high-level diplomacy, with U.S. State Secretary Condoleezza Rice, EU High Representative Javier Solana and German Foreign Minister Frank Walter-Steinmeier presenting one diplomatic initiative after the other, it was too late and not enough to prevent the forthcoming crisis,” Tagliavini said.

After the diplomat’s report debates were opened by Head of Georgia's Permanent Delegation to PACE Petre Tsiskarishvili, who highlighted the ethnic cleansing of Georgians during and after the war and stated that Russian forces, in concert with the separatist forces, had deliberately begun a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Georgians. He also said that the passportisation process had started several years before the conflict. “This was also a very clear violation of international norms, as well as a direct provocation,” Tsiskarishvili stated. He added that Russian troops, as established by the mission, were on Georgian territory by August 7. “It is another question whether they were substantial or insubstantial forces, but conventional Russian forces and paramilitary units were on Georgian territory”, he added.

In response Head of the Russian Delegation Konstantin Kosachev recalled President Saakashvili’s speech at the session before the war and stated that he had been lying when he had said that he did not intend to use force while at the same time preparing for the war which took place in 2008. “I welcome Mr. Wilshire [PACE rapporteur]'s approach to this issue. He was the first who said that a door should be opened with a key and not broken into, because a broken door is another war that we want to prevent,” Kosachev said.

In her conclusion Taglavini stated that “All parties to the conflict failed, there were terrible violations of humanitarian and human rights law and both the threat and use of force have returned to European politics.” “Dialogue at all levels was the only way forward,” she concluded.

Matyas Eorsi and David Wilshire, rapporteurs from the Monitoring Committee of PACE, made concluding remarks in which Hungarian diplomat Eorsi stated that Georgia, Russia and the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were all losers in the conflict but declared: “Europe can never approve a new Yalta.”

David Wilshire, against whom the Georgian side had certain complaints after his visit to the so-called Embassy of the South Ossetian puppet regime in Moscow said that Europe risked finding itself with yet another frozen conflict. “PACE can only offer one thing: dialogue – dialogue to start confidence-building, dialogue to build trust,” he said.