Russia Rejects EU-Backed Peace Proposal as Fighting Continues | News | DW | 11.08.2008
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Russia Rejects EU-Backed Peace Proposal as Fighting Continues

Russia rejected Monday an EU proposal to end the conflict with Georgia over South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Georgia continues to use military force, making a deal impossible, a Kremlin spokesman told reporters.

Georgian soldier stands guard near the South Ossetian border

The EU wants an immediate ceasefire

Russia said it could not consider a ceasefire deal with Georgia at present.

"According to information from peacekeepers in South Ossetia, Georgia continues to use military force and in this regard we cannot consider this document," a Kremlin spokesman told reporters on Monday, Aug. 11.

The rebuff came less than an hour after Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed a European Union-backed peace proposal to be presented to Russia, according to the news agency AFP.

The EU has put forth the peace proposal in an attempt to end the conflict with Russia, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner told French radio RTL from Tbilisi.

Kouchner, whose nation holds the rotating EU presidency, said that the peace plan is "rather simple," and includes an immediate and unconditional ceasefire and access for victims to aid.

Kouchner and Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, head of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), will travel to Moscow for talks later on Monday.

Russian President Dmitry Medvedev on Monday called for an OSCE mission to be sent to South Ossetia, according to the Kremlin.

Meanwhile, EU foreign ministers will convene for an extraordinary meeting on Wednesday to discuss the crisis, the French EU presidency confirmed.

No justification for further fighting: Erler

Gernot Erler

Gernot Erler

German Deputy Foreign Minister Gernot Erler on Monday called on Russia to end fighting, saying there was no justification for further attacks after Georgia declared a ceasefire Sunday. Russian officials, however, said Georgia is not observing the ceasefire.

"We don't know whether it is being adhered to 100 percent, but it is time to say that there is no longer any justification for further military attacks," Erler told German public broadcaster ZDF, adding that the conflict so far had demonstrated the "clear military superiority of Russian forces."

The European Commission backed up those remarks Monday, calling on Russia to halt immediately "all military activity on Georgian territory."

G7 backs Georgian territorial integrity

Calls for Russia to abandon its military push into Georgia have also come from the foreign ministers of the Group of Seven (G7) nations -- France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the UK, Canada and the US -- urging the Kremlin on Monday to agree to an immediate ceasefire with Georgia and respect its territorial integrity, the US State Department told Reuters news agency.

A State Department spokesman said the ministers discussed the situation in Georgia and the breakaway region of South Ossetia in a conference call Monday and expressed support for mediation efforts led by the French and Finnish foreign ministers.

"(The G7 ministers) called on Russia to accept an immediate ceasefire," the spokesman said. "They expressed deep concern for the civilian casualties and continued attacks on civilian locations.

"They reaffirmed support for the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia and called on Russia to respect these," added the spokesman, who was not named by the department.

French FM: US part of conflict

Kouchner meanwhile said the EU would have to be the chief negotiator in the conflict since the US "in a sense was part of the conflict."

The White House on Monday, Aug. 11, said that "Russian aggression" in the Caucasus region "must not go unanswered," said a spokeswoman.

US Vice-President Dick Cheney "praised (Saakashvili for his government's restraint, offers of cease-fire, and disengagement of Georgian forces from the zone of conflict in the South Ossetian region," Cheney's spokeswoman Lee Anne McBride said.

US President George W. Bush with Georgian President Saakashvili in front of giant American and Georgian flags

The US has sided with Georgia

If it continues, the conflict could have serious implication for Russia's relations with the US and with the broader international community, the vice president reportedly said.

From the Olympic Games in Beijing on Monday, US President George W. Bush said in an interview with NBC Sports that he had he had been "very firm" with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin regarding the South Ossetian conflict.

He called Russia's response to Georgia "disproportionate" and urged that all troops return to the "status quo ante" from Aug. 6.

Reports of Russian attacks

The Georgian Interior Ministry said early Monday that Russian planes had bombed a military base and radar installation in the suburbs of its capital city Tbilisi.

South Ossetians flee their homes

South Ossetian residents fled their homes over the weekend as Georgia launched attacks

"There were two bombings, one at the Kojori military base and another on Mt. Makhata," Georgian Interior Ministry spokesman Shota Utiashvili told Reuters news agency. "As far as I know, there are no casualties."

On Sunday, the Georgian Interior Ministry claimed that Russia tanks had crossed the border from South Ossetia into Georgia proper, but were turned back by Georgian forces.

Russia on Sunday claimed to have sunk a Georgian boat that was reportedly attempting to attack Russian vessels in the Black Sea off the coast of Georgia.

After nearly four days of fighting between Georgian and Russian troops, Russian troops were in control of the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali Sunday, when the Georgian government announced a unilateral ceasefire.

But even as the withdrawal of Georgian forces from Tskhinvali was confirmed by the Russian military, there were reports of continued fighting including an attack by Russian jets on Tbilisi's airport. Moscow, however, denied the report.

Local residents pass by a damaged building in Gori, Georgia

Russia said more than 2,000 people have been killed since fighting began

Casualty numbers climbing

Russian attacks have come in response to a Georgian offensive launched overnight Friday to gain control of the breakaway South Ossetian province.

The pro-Russian territory broke away from Georgia in 1992, shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and most of its residents have been granted Russian passports.

Russian Deputy Foreign Ministry Grigory Karasin said more than 2,000 people had been killed in South Ossetia since the fighting began Friday, reported AP, but the number has not been confirmed.

Abkhazia orders Georgians out

Georgia's second separatist region Abkhazia meanwhile ordered all Georgian soldiers and civilians to leave the upper Kodori Valley area or face an attack. Georgian positions in the upper valley bordering Russia were surrounded by Abkhazian forces, the leadership of the Russian-backed breakaway republic on the Black Sea said in the regional capital Suchumi, according to the Russian Interfax agency.

Indicating a possible further escalation of the conflict with Georgia, Moscow has moved 9,000 soldiers and 350 military vehicles into Abkhazia in the past few days. The move was intended to support Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia, Moscow said.

The UN observer mission UNOMIG withdrew its military observers stationed in the area over the weekend.

While Abkhazia considers the sparsely populated Kodori Valley part of its territory, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in 2006 set up a Georgian authority in the upper Kodori Valley after a Georgian police action there.

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