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Tbilisi claims victory in UN Security Council session

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, July 23
Tbilisi claimed a diplomatic victory in the closed-door UN Security Council session on July 21, as Russia criticized the “pro-Georgian” stance of council members.

The session was convened at Georgia’s request after Russia acknowledged sending its warplanes over Georgia’s breakaway South Ossetia earlier this month to “cool hot heads in Tbilisi.”

Irakli Alasania, the Georgian envoy to the UN, said the members of the Security Council “all agreed” in individual statements that Russia’s flyover was a “gross violation” of international law.

Speaking to reporters after the private Security Council meeting, he said Georgia found at the session “very strong support for territorial integrity again and very strong condemnation of this fact of aggression against Georgian sovereignty.”

As expected, there was no Security Council resolution or joint statement. The head of the Georgian parliament’s Euro-Atlantic integration committee, Davit Darchiashvili, told local reporters that Russia’s veto right as a permanent council member lowered expectations for the session. The victory, he said, was in the meeting itself.

“Considering the reality we have reached the maximum success,” said Darchiashvili.

Russia’s UN representative, Vitaly Churkin, told reporters after the session that Georgia tried to regain its breakaway regions through “military adventure,” but “fortunately, steps taken by the Russian side and very wise course of action by the South Ossetian authorities brought about the situation when what we were concerned about did not happen.”

In a complaint which suggested the session went well for Tbilisi, Churkin said “some [in the meeting] could not overcome their lack of objectivity and well-known pro-Georgian leanings.”

He said Tbilisi’s push for a change to the Russian-led peacekeeping format in the Georgian conflict is “unrealistic” and a “waste of time.”

Churkin repeated Moscow’s position that Georgia should sign a non-resumption of violence agreement, saying it is a step Tbilisi “can and should take” to move forward with conflict settlement.

Though Georgia has in the past suggested an unwillingness to ink a pact swearing off the use of force in the conflict regions, officials now say the agreement is on the table as a bargaining chip.

Alasania, the Georgian representative, suggested an agreement has already been drafted and could conceivably be signed.

“Georgia was never against, and is not against, the signing of the declaration of non-resumption [of violence]. In fact, we worked together with the Abkhaz side on the text of the declaration a few months ago,” he told reporters.

Alasania said the agreement would have to accompany Abkhaz willingness to return Georgian refugees displaced from Abkhazia during the secessionist conflict.

There are ongoing talks on refugee return, a key political and moral goal for the Georgian government, Alasania said, adding that the Berlin-backed peace place initially rejected by the Abkhaz this month is still alive.

He said the Russian peacekeeping forces “clearly lack the credibility” to protect the potentially hundreds of thousands of Georgian refugees who would be eligible to return to their homes in the breakaway region.

United States envoy to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters that the US is “troubled” by the acknowledged violation of Georgia’s airspace, and urged “Russia to take steps for it to be a credible partner with other friends through the [UN secretary-general’s Group of Friends of Georgia process], to play a constructive role in dealing with the challenges that Georgia faces.”

A Georgian Foreign Ministry statement posted to its website in English yesterday claimed moral victory in the session: “The result of the special session of the UN Security Council once again indicates clearly that Russia’s policy aimed at further escalation of the already complicated situation in the region is totally unacceptable to the international community.”

Alasania said Georgia will continue to contest Russian moves in the region through diplomatic means.

“This is why the call for the Security Council to discuss this issue was another attempt [at a diplomatic reaction]… We’re going to continue going only through the diplomatic channels and raising awareness in the international community what kind of aggression it is that Georgia is dealing with.”