|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
PRESS CONFERENCE BY GEORGIA ON 6 AUGUST AIRSPACE ‘VIOLATION’ BY RUSSIAN AIRCRAFT
Georgia was calling for a high-level investigation by the United Nations Security Council of Monday’s violation of Georgia’s airspace by two Russian aircraft, and inviting the European Union and other partners to verify that unprovoked use of force, that country’s Charge d’Affairs, Irakli Chikovani, said at a Headquarters press conference this afternoon.
He said that, at 1830 hours local time on 6 August, two Russian SU-24 planes had crossed more than 75 kilometres into sovereign Georgian territory before launching an air-to-surface precision-guided missile near the village of Tsitelubani. The Government of Georgia possessed “incontrovertible evidence” documenting the flight times and trajectory of the intruder aircrafts.
The air strike of 6 August had come in the wake of an incident the day before, in which another military plane, most likely an SU-24, had also breached Georgian airspace from the Russian side, he noted.
Georgia considered those actions to be in violation of the provisions of the United Nations Charter on the prohibition of the use of force, and an act of aggression under General Assembly resolution 3314 (1974) on the definition of aggression, he said. It demanded that the Russian Federation take immediate action to conduct a timely and thorough investigation of the “aerial bombardment and provide an exhaustive explanation” of the incident.
On 7 August, Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had summoned the Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Georgia and handed him a formal note of protest, including photographic and radar-based evidence. Additionally, the foreign diplomatic corps accredited in Georgia had been invited to a formal briefing on the incident, followed by an on-site visit to the scene of the missile strike.
Today, Mr. Chikovani urged the international community to express a firm and principled position regarding the act of aggression, stressing that the events of 6 August had not been the only case of an air attack on Georgian sovereign territory. Several months ago, in March, the Upper Abkhazia (Kodori Gorge) had been attacked by helicopters. “It seems that acts of aggression against Georgia are becoming a tendency, a very dangerous one,” he said.
Such actions constituted a threat to international peace and security by undermining fundamental democratic values and endangering the primacy of international law, he said. Evidently, those acts had not been properly addressed and evaluated by the international community, thus “establishing a breeding ground for the latest acts of aggression against Georgia”.
His country could not tolerate such offences against its citizens and sovereignty, he added, saying that Georgia would request the Security Council President to convene a special meeting to address the matter. The Council had to be resolute in condemning the attack on the territory of a sovereign country.
Monday’s incident might have been aimed at hindering recent positive dynamics in democratization and conflict resolution currently under way in Georgia, he ventured. Recent acts of aggression against the country clearly demonstrated an urgent need to adapt all security arrangements and mechanisms to modern realities, in order to ensure the stability and security of Georgians inhabiting the conflict regions.
A correspondent asked for further clarification on the incident, saying that the missile had not exploded, but had landed in a field; no buildings, installations or people had been attacked.
Mr. Chikovani replied that irrespective of whether the missile had exploded or not, foreign military aircraft had penetrated Georgia’s sovereign airspace to a depth of some 75 kilometres -- 60 kilometres away from the country’s capital –- and that was not acceptable. “Whoever did that did not serve any positive goals,” he said.
Asked if Georgia was disappointed with the United Nations investigation of the Kodori Valley incident, he said that his country was grateful to the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) for its four months of efforts, but the report had been destined to be inconclusive because the Russian side had failed to provide the requested information; in particular, the data from the radar on the flight conducted that night. The Russian side had also failed to trace the missile numbers that Georgia had obtained from the shelling sites.
To a question about the target of the 6 August missile launch, he said that he could not respond on behalf of the perpetrators. As for a suggestion that the intrusion could have been an accident and that it might be better to await the results of the investigation before calling for a Security Council meeting, he said that penetration by two foreign aircraft into Georgia’s airspace was a criminal act in itself, regardless of the goal of those actions.
Regarding whether the Security Council was the right venue in light of the Russian Federation’s veto power, he said that, as a universal body dealing with peace and security, the Council had to tackle the matter, which threatened the peace and security of his country. He again called on the United Nations to conduct a thorough investigation, adding that the Russian Federation had no arguments that would oppose such an investigation.
He said, replying to a further question, that he would meet later today with the Council presidency, in order to formally request the meeting.
“Who are your allies in the Council?” a correspondent asked. Mr. Chikovani said that his country had “a very close relationship” with several permanent and non-permanent members of the Council.
Asked if Georgia had received any indication whether the European Union would agree to conduct an investigation, he said that his Foreign Minister had been talking with Georgia’s partners during the past two days and they were showing a lot of interest and understanding. The Union’s members understood the seriousness of the situation. Georgia was also inviting all other international organizations and States to provide experts to investigate the data already in his Government’s possession and to gather possible additional information. It was also working with its neighbours in an effort to obtain any possible additional data.
To a question about relations between Georgia and Russia at this point, he said his Government did not consider itself in a “status of conflict” with the Russian Federation, but it was requesting that country to provide information on the matter, to conduct its own investigation and to participate in the investigation being proposed by the Georgian Government.
“In the modern world, we do not expect our neighbours to come into our airspace. That’s why we are calling for a reconsideration of all the security arrangements that are in place at those sites,” he replied to a further question.
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