UNITED NATIONS SECURITY COUNCIL
August 28, 2008
UN Webcast Archive
5969th Meeting (PM)
SECURITY COUNCIL BRIEFED BY POLITICAL AFFAIRS, PEACEKEEPING ON GEORGIA DEVELOPMENTS,
INCLUDING 26 AUGUST RECOGNITION DECREES ON ABKHAZIA, SOUTH OSSETIA
Russian Federation Reads Out Decrees to Council;
Georgia Says Declarations Illegal, Country Invaded, But Not Defeated
On 26 August, the President of the Russian Federation had signed decrees on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent States, a representative of the Department of Political Affairs told the Security Council today, as she briefed members on the situation in Georgia.
Elizabeth Spehar, Director of the Americas and Europe Division and Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Political Affairs, also described to the Council the situation on the ground, saying that, according to the United Nations country team, 28 Russian checkpoints remained north of Gori, as of yesterday. According to media reports, Russian checkpoints continued to be in place in other areas of Georgia.
Also reporting on the humanitarian situation, she said that the Government of Georgia had been facilitating returns of internally displaced persons to Gori from Tbilisi. The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), had expressed concern over reports of new forcible displacement caused by marauding bands north of Gori. Those newly displaced had reported incidents of intimidation, physical violence and looting. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was the only international organization with access to South Ossetia.
Also briefing the Council, Wolfgang Weisbrod-Weber, Director of the Asia and Middle East Division and Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said that, since the last briefing to the Council on 21 August, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) had witnessed large-scale movement of Russian troops and military hardware from the Georgian to the Abkhaz controlled side of the ceasefire line. Overall, the situation in and around the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone had remained tense. The Abkhaz side claimed that Georgian armed elements were active on their side of the ceasefire line. UNOMIG could not verify any of those claims, as there were no appropriate security guarantees for the resumption of normal patrolling. UNOMIG had been informed that the Russian forces had left Senaki military base and that the Georgian police was conducting demining of the area.
Georgia’s representative, who had requested the public meeting, said that the Russian Federation, a member of the Security Council, had interfered in the principle of the territorial integrity of States, and its illegal and unilateral action had come under condemnation by the international community. The Council must send the strongest message, to ensure it was not misread.
He said that the Russian Federation’s action had no validity and no impact on Georgia’s status. Further, the Russian Federation must be checked to prevent it from overstepping other boundaries. Invaded and occupied, Georgia was not defeated. It would be rebuilt for Georgians, Ossetians and all ethnic populations.
The representative of the Russian Federation read out to Council members the Decree on the Recognition of the Republic of Abkhazia and the Decree on the Recognition of the Republic of South Ossetia, saying his country had recognized their independence in order to ensure the survival of the population in the face of Georgian repression. Further, without representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia present, today’s meeting could not be objective. Giving a historical overview of events since 1992, he said that genuine perspectives for peace had been eliminated when, at the end of 2003, power had been seized by Mikheil Saakashvili, who “had gotten out of control” with the aggressive attack on South Ossetia on 8 August, despite efforts of external patrons to restrain him.
He said that the glimmers of hope created by the Sarkozy-Medvedev plan had quickly evaporated when Mr. Saakashvili had rejected it. External patrons of the regime were supplying weapons, something which was unacceptable. The President of the Russian Federation had, therefore, taken the decision to recognize the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. That decision had been based on, among other things, the United Nations Charter, the Finland Final Act and other international laws.
The representative of France, also speaking on behalf of the European Union, pointed out that the six-point initiative had been signed by the Russian Federation and Georgia, as well as by the two separatist entities. Substantial progress had been made before the Russian action of recognizing the separatist entities as independent States had occurred. Military action could not be recognized as a valid way to redefine the borders of neighbours.
He said the European Union would meet Monday to consider the ramifications of the Russian Federation’s actions. The agreement drawn up by France and agreed to by the four parties involved must be honoured and military forces must be withdrawn to their pre-conflict positions. The international mechanism to replace current patrols in South Ossetia must be deployed as soon as possible. Unhindered access to humanitarian assistance must be immediately made available to all who needed it. Protection of the vulnerable was a priority, especially that of Georgians in the separatist entities.
Costa Rica’s representative said it was unacceptable that a United Nations Member State was being “dismembered” by force. “We cannot, and the international community should not, reward this approach, which is counter in all aspects to international law.” A settlement of the situation must include respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia, the rights of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and the integrity of international law and the principles of peaceful coexistence, as enshrined in the United Nations Charter.
He added that any similarities between the situation of Kosovo and of Abkhazia and South Ossetia had been negated because of the use of force. He was supportive of the path Serbia had taken by seeking an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice. That was the principle of civilized coexistence: the rule of law and not of force. In both cases, there were different points of view and also different approaches. Under no circumstances, however, should one strive for a solution based on “might is right”.
The representatives of Italy, South Africa, Panama, United Kingdom, Croatia, Indonesia, United States and Belgium also spoke.
The meeting started at 3:07 p.m. and was adjourned at 5:05 p.m.
The Security Council met today to discuss the situation in Georgia, at the request of that country’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, Irakli Alasania. In a letter to the President of the Security Council dated 27 August (document S/2008/587), Mr. Alasania asked the Council to consider the “illegal unilateral actions of the Russian Federation with regard to two Georgian provinces (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) in violation of the Charter, all Security Council resolutions on Georgia, fundamental norms and principles of international law, the Helsinki Final Act, the six-point accord and the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia”.
ELIZABETH SPEHAR, Director of the Americas and Europe Division and Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Political Affairs, said that, since the 21 August briefing, the President of the Russian Federation, Dmitry Medvedev, had signed, on 26 August, decrees on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent States. Regarding the situation on the ground, yesterday, the United Nations country team had reported that 28 Russian checkpoints remained north of Gori. According to media reports, Russian checkpoints continued to be in place in other areas of Georgia.
She said that, on 25 and 26 August, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) military monitors had conducted four patrols to the eastern fringes of South Ossetia. The mission had reported that, on 26 August, a meeting had taken place between representatives of the South Ossetian and Georgian sides. After that meeting, the Georgian side had reportedly pulled back its police presence from the village of Mosabruni, located within South Ossetia. The security situation in Akhalgori had been described as stable but tense, and that an estimated 80 to 90 per cent of the inhabitants had left.
As for the humanitarian situation, she said that United Nations sources had reported that spontaneous and organized returns continued to take place. The Government of Georgia had been facilitating returns of internally displaced persons to Gori from Tbilisi. With the support of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), a small camp had been set up to hold 400 of the newly displaced. UNHCR had expressed concern over reports of new forcible displacement caused by marauding bands north of Gori. According to new reports, some 1,000 civilians from ethnic Georgian populated areas of South Ossetia had sought refuge in Gori. Those displaced had reported incidents of intimidation, physical violence and looting. Of equal concern were villages that were not accessible to humanitarian organizations north of Gori.
She said that, as of yesterday, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) was the only international organization with access to South Ossetia. Commercial transports were now available to take cargo between Gori and Tbilisi, but were reluctant to travel north of Gori due to concerns of insecurity if not part of a United Nations convoy. As of yesterday, World Food Programme (WFP) assistance had reached 137,100 people. As of 27 August, the total funding for the 20 August flash appeal stood at $9.8 million contributed or committed, with a further $14.1 million as uncommitted pledges.
WOLFGANG WEISBROD-WEBER, Director of the Asia and Middle East Division and Officer-in-Charge of the Department of Peacekeeping Operations, said that, since the last briefing, the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) had observed large-scale movement of Russian troops and military hardware from the Georgian to the Abkhaz controlled side of the ceasefire line. According to UNOMIG, only a small number of Russian troops not under Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) command remained on the Georgian side of the ceasefire line. On 22 August, Russian military officials had stated that the total strength of the collective peacekeeping forces of CIS in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone stood at 2,142, and that they planned to establish 18 additional checkpoints in the conflict zone and one in the Upper Kodori Valley. UNOMIG had observed a forward positioning of CIS peacekeeping force checkpoints from the ceasefire line towards the eastern perimeter of the restricted weapons zone.
He said that, overall, the situation in and around the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone had remained tense. Abkhaz forces continued to exercise control over the Ganmukhuri and Kourcha pockets north of the Inguri River, on the Georgian side of the ceasefire line. The Abkhaz side claimed that Georgian armed elements were active on their side of the ceasefire line. There had also been reports of mines in the Gali district. UNOMIG could not verify any of those claims, due to the fact that the Mission had not been able to obtain appropriate security guarantees for the resumption of normal patrolling in the Gali sector. Patrolling continued to be restricted to the main road crossing it, the M27.
On the Georgian side, UNOMIG had been informed that the Russian forces had left Senaki military base and that the Georgian police was conducting demining of the area. UNOMIG had resumed normal patrolling patterns in the Zugdidi sector. UNOMIG had not conducted a patrol in the Kodori Valley due to the absence of security guarantees from the CIS peacekeeping force.