Moscow Rejects West’s Call to Preserve Georgian Borders

BRUSSELS (Guardian)–The US and Europe Tuesday demanded any settlement of the conflict in Georgia be based on recognition of the smaller country’s territorial integrity. But after overrunning Georgia in five days, Russia rejected the terms.

The EU unveiled a blueprint for ending the bloodshed after several days of French-led diplomacy between Moscow and Tbilisi which resulted in a six-point plan underpinning a fragile ceasefire.

US president George Bush warned the Kremlin that it had to "keep its word and act to end this crisis".

But Russia declined to acknowledge Georgian sovereignty over all of its recognized territory, and refused to have any reference to it in the six-point plan.

Russia agreed to "international discussions" with Georgia on South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but kept its options open on the two pro-Russian breakaway provinces.

An EU statement said any peace settlement had to be based on Georgia’s territorial integrity. Bush said: "The United States stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia. We insist the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected."

Sergei Ivanov, Russia’s deputy prime minister, repeatedly refused to recognize Georgian control over its territory. "We recognize the sovereignty of Georgia … but territorial integrity, it’s another matter," he told the BBC. "South Ossetia and Abkhazia never were part of Georgia as an independent country."

A US C-17 military aircraft carrying supplies and a contingent of military forces to carry out an aid mission arrived in Georgia last night, and a second flight was planned for today. Bush said the US expected Russia to allow humanitarian supplies into Georgia and ensure all lines of communication and transport stayed open.

Analysts said the US was trying to use the flights to demonstrate strength to both Georgia, which has sought a stronger response from Washington, and Russia, while minimizing the risk of being drawn into the conflict. Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said the US had been careful to let Russia know about every flight, given the risks of the US and Russian militaries operating in such proximity. "We do not want there to be any potential misunderstanding or miscalculation," he said.

The 27 EU foreign ministers held an emergency session on the crisis yesterday. France’s foreign minister, Bernard Kouchner, admitted the deal he and President Nicolas Sarkozy mediated was "partially unsatisfactory", but said the priority was to obtain a durable ceasefire.

The points agreed by Moscow and Tbilisi proscribe the use of force, pledge a ceasefire, and guarantee access for humanitarian aid. But the political and military aspects of the agreement are problematic and it could yet unravel.

At Russian insistence, Georgian forces must return to base while Russian "peacekeepers" in South Ossetia are allowed to stage security patrols until an "international mechanism" is agreed.

"That gives the Russia’s undefined security rights in undefined territory in Georgia. That’s an invitation to further problems," the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, told the Guardian.

Prospective western reprisals against Moscow became clearer yesterday, with the US calling a special session of NATO foreign ministers which could suspend Russia’s consultative link with the alliance. David Miliband, the foreign secretary, suggested Russia could be expelled from the G8 and that the EU may halt negotiations on a strategic pact.


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