Diplomats called for a second emergency session of the United Nations Security Council seeking to prevent an all-out war between Russia, Georgia and the breakaway Georgian province of South Ossetia.
This time it was Georgia’s turn to ask that the 15-nation council meet.
Russia had called a meeting that began last night (4am Irish Time) in New York, but after three hours there was no consensus on Russia’s proposed council statement.
A short time later, Russia sent tanks into the separatist province in a furious response to Georgian troops launching a major military offensive to regain control of the region.
The US said it supports its ally Georgia’s territorial integrity, called for an immediate ceasefire, and sent a US envoy in hopes of ending the hostilities.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said that France, as president of the European Union Council, “calls on all parties immediately to cease hostilities and resume the negotiations, the only way of finding a way out of the crisis”.
The US had objected to the Russian-drafted council statement because it didn’t make it clear that the renunciation of force should apply to all parties - meaning Russia – and not just Georgia and South Ossetia.
There was not enough background information about what was happening on the ground, UN officials said, and the proposed statement could have been interpreted as wrongfully implying that Georgia was the aggressor in this situation.
They said that the US, Britain and other council members faulted the Russian language because it would have defined the situation as “the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict” and then called on “the parties to the conflict” – not all sides, including Russia – to renounce using force and return to the negotiating table.
Because of this, the US had proposed an alternative text that would have had the council express “serious concern” at the escalation of violence in South Ossetia and call for “the immediate cessation of hostilities” and “the parties to immediately resume negotiations.”
American diplomat Rosemary DiCarlo, who represented the US at the council, had warned Russia to “not inflame the situation by sending its forces to Georgia.” Russia did so anyway.
She also said the US would “accept no excuses from any party that refuses to disengage,” but condemned South Ossetia for refusing to honour a ceasefire. The US called on all sides “to respect the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the Republic of Georgia,” she said.
“Moscow can be part of the solution or part of the problem,” DiCarlo said. “Not both.”
After the council had reached a stalemate, Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said the disagreement among council members represented a very serious error of judgment and political blunder.
“I hope that the Georgian side will reconsider its reckless actions in the area of the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict,” Churkin said.
Georgia is calling for negotiations with South Ossetia and welcomes efforts by the US and others to defuse the situation, Georgian Ambassador Irakli Alasania said. Russia has close ties with South Ossetia’s separatist leadership.
“At the same time, we clearly want to state that Georgia, as a responsible state, has the obligation to protect its peaceful population,” Alasania said. “So all the necessary actions will be taken to continue to protect our population.”