|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
5951st Meeting (AM)
SECURITY COUNCIL HOLDS EMERGENCY MEETING IN RESPONSE TO RUSSIAN FEDERATION’S
REQUEST AS CRISIS ESCALATES IN SOUTH OSSETIA, GEORGIA
At the request of the Russian Federation, the Security Council convened an emergency meeting early this morning on the mounting crisis in South Ossetia, Georgia, where reportedly dozens of people have been killed or wounded and hundreds more uprooted from their homes.
Last night, the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation explained, just hours after reaching agreement on talks to resolve the escalating South Ossetia conflict, Georgian military divisions had begun a “treacherous and massive” attack against Tskhinvali, the region’s capital. The Georgian authorities had used the military option despite diplomatic efforts by Moscow, Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, Washington, D.C., and others.
He said the Security Council had ignored warnings by the Russian Federation and it was now obliged not only to deal with a resurgence of the conflict, but also to discuss that situation, which represented a threat to regional security and peace. The Council must now play its role by immediately calling for an end to hostilities and a rejection of the use of force.
Because of Georgia’s actions, the situation in the conflict zone had now reached a critical phase, he warned. The aggressive acts ordered by the Georgian authorities had done great damage to the peace process and to prospects for a political or diplomatic settlement. The Russian Federation would continue its efforts to prevent any further bloodshed and to restoring the situation in South Ossetia to a peaceful track.
The Permanent Representative of Georgia provided the Council with a detailed accounting and timelime of events leading up to the “tragic deterioration” in the situation. Following violent clashes, Georgia’s State Minister had announced a unilateral ceasefire at a press conference on 7 August as a sign of Tbilisi’s willingness to defuse tensions. President Mikheil Saakashvili had explained in a televised address that evening that he had ordered the ceasefire “on purpose”, in order to repeat his offer to the South Ossetian secessionists of the chance to resume talks.
Military action had been taken in self-defence after repeated armed provocations, and with the sole goal of protecting civilians, the Permanent Representative continued. “We believe every democratic State would have reacted in similar fashion to protect its citizens.” Now, additional illegal forces and military equipment were entering Georgia from Russia through the Roki Tunnel. The separatists were continuing to threaten attack outside the South Ossetia region and Russian peacekeepers had told Georgia that they were unable to control the separatists, who were ignoring appeals for direct talks.
“We seek a negotiated solution to the conflict, with international engagement,” he stressed, adding that Georgia’s offer of autonomy along European lines stood, with international guarantees, including an elected regional parliament, an elected regional president, shared sovereignty and protections for the Ossetian identity, culture and language. Georgia sought the Russian Federation’s constructive engagement in the region’s rehabilitation and agreed security arrangements. As it stood, however, the Russian security and defence agencies had control of illegal separatist authorities and armed formations.
He said numerous high-ranking Russian officers among the peacekeepers, as well as other officials from the Russian military intelligence and law enforcement services, were serving in senior roles, a clear violation of Russia’s obligation to remain neutral. Instead, the Russian Federation had become a party to the conflict. Georgia called on the international community to condemn the Russian Federation’s continuing infringement of Georgian sovereignty and territorial integrity.
The representative of the United States appealed to the parties involved to “step back and to order their forces to disengage”, saying he could conceive of no circumstances that warranted a continuation of the violence. “We can accept no excuses from any party that refuses to disengage, and we assure all parties that we shall value restraint and condemn aggression.” The United States called on the parties to respect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia. The Russian Federation should pull back its troops and not inflame the situation by sending its forces to Georgia.
Other Council members echoed that appeal, with the Permanent Representative of France, whose Government currently holds the European Union presidency, recalling that the regional body had promised to spare no effort in helping the parties attain a sustainable solution.
Speaking in his national capacity, he said it was certain that, for all the parties to the conflict, the military option was “no way out”. There must be an immediate cessation of hostilities on the ground, an immediate resumption of dialogue, with a view towards a ceasefire, and full cooperation with the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Taking the floor for a second time, the Russian delegate expressed dismay at the absence of political will among Council members and their inability to have sent a clear signal in response to the events. Georgia’s delegate said he hoped reason would prevail and the Russian Federation would come to the negotiating table.
Also speaking were representatives of Belgium, United Kingdom, China, Italy, Viet Nam, Croatia and Indonesia.
The meeting began at 1:15 a.m. and adjourned at 2 a.m.
* *** *For information media • not an official record