Peace plan: Roadmap to end of military hostilities
Demands to end conflict
On 7 August 2008, a few hours before Georgia began its main offensive operation, Saakashvili ordered a unilateral ceasefire and called for talks « in any format »; reaffirmed the long-standing offer of full autonomy for South Ossetia; proposed that Russia should guarantee that solution; offered a general amnesty; and pleaded for international intercession to stop the hostilities. On 10 August Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin ruled out peace talks with Georgia until it pulled back its forces beyond the borders of South Ossetia and signed a legally binding pact renouncing the use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway territory of Georgia.
On 11 August, Russian President Medvedev hinted at an end to the conflict saying, « A significant part of the operation to force the Georgian authorities to make peace in South Ossetia has been concluded, » and « Tskhinvali is under the control of a reinforced Russian peacekeeping contingent. » Russian Prime Minister Putin added Moscow would take its mission in the region to « a logical conclusion. » Later the same day, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili signed an EU-backed ceasefire, but the document was rejected by Moscow. According to a Reuters witness, Georgian troops did not cease fire, as six helicopters attacked Tskhinvali on 11 August. An Associated Press reporter saw 135 Russian military vehicles, including tanks, driving toward the Kodori Gorge, held by Georgian forces. The acting Georgian ambassador to Britain told Sky News that Russian jets bombed civilian targets in Georgia despite Moscow’s announcement that the war had ended.
On 12 August 2008 at 09:00 UTC Russian president and Russian Army Supreme Commander-in-Chief Dmitry Medvedev stated that the « peace enforcing operation in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone » was over. Later, Russian General Staff Deputy Chief Anatoliy Nogovitsyn said armed actions would stop, but reconnaissance operations would continue.
On 13 August, a reporter for the UK The Guardian stated that « the idea there is a ceasefire is ridiculous, » and that he could see villages near Gori burning, amidst claims that Chechen, Cossack and Ossetian irregulars were advancing through Georgian villages. CNN reported that journalists in Gori said they had seen no Russian tanks, contrary to claims by the Georgian president. According to Sky News, Georgia’s deputy interior minister said « I’d like to calm everybody down. The Russian military is not advancing towards the capital. » The same report said « Sky News correspondents Stuart Ramsay and Jason Farrell confirmed there were tanks in Gori, which has suffered extensively from Russian bombing raids » Al Jazeera reported a « continuous build up » of Russian forces in Poti throughout the day, and the destruction of several Georgian vessels. Russia’s deputy chief of General Staff Colonel-General Anatoliy Nogovitsyn said sporadic clashes continued in South Ossetia between Georgian snipers and Russian troops. « We must respond to provocations, » he said. On 19 August Medvedev said that Russia will pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions set out in the ceasefire agreement on 22 August.
Six-point peace plan
On 12 August Russian President Medvedev met the President-in-Office of the European Union, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and approved a six-point peace plan. Late that night Georgian President Saakashvili agreed to the text. Sarkozy’s plan originally had just the first four points. Russia added the fifth and sixth points. Georgia asked for the additions in parentheses, but Russia rejected them, and Sarkozy convinced Georgia to agree to the unchanged text.
1. No recourse to the use of force.
2. Definitive cessation of hostilities.
3. Free access to humanitarian aid (addition rejected: and to allow the return of refugees).
4. Georgian military forces must withdraw to their normal bases of encampment.
5. Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines prior to the start of hostilities. While awaiting an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures (addition rejected: six months).
6. Opening of international discussions on the modalities of lasting security in Abkhazia and South Ossetia (addition rejected: based on the decisions of the UN and the OSCE).
According to RIA Novosti, « Sarkozy told a briefing after talks with his Georgian counterpart that the deal also includes some changes requested by Georgia… ‘we have removed the issue of South Ossetia’s status from the document' ». But the The New York Times, citing a Georgian negotiator, reported that Sarkozy convinced Georgia to accept the Russian version unchanged, after Medvedev waited two hours to return his phone call and then rejected the proposed changes. The U.S. newspaper further asserted that the fifth point was crucial, and Russia used it to justify continuing hostilities into Georgia proper after the agreement. The International Herald Tribune reported on 15 August 2008, that the agreement included a letter from Sarkozy, clarifying a provision that allowed Russia a continued military presence outside the separatist regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, said Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s deputy foreign minister. The letter stated that Russia’s permission to conduct continued security operations in Georgia does not extend to populated areas or the main east-west highway that is the country’s lifeline, Bokeria said. On 14 August Medvedev met with South Ossetia President Eduard Kokoity and Abkhazia President Sergei Bagapsh, where they signed the six principles.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe has 200 personnel in the area, of which nine are military observers. OSCE is preparing to send 100 more observers to monitor the ceasefire, of which 20 are to be deployed immediately. On 18 August, Russia also initially opposed the deployment of 100 new observers into the region, but later accepted them. There have been difficulties with delivering humanitarian aid to the area, because OSCE personnel were initially blocked access into Tskhinvali or Gori by Russian forces and various irregulars, according to the head of the OSCE mission to Georgia. The Russian-backed South Ossetian president Kokotyi has also refused to accept international peacekeepers.
Russian statements on withdrawal
On 19 August, Reuters reported that the Kremlin had said that Russian troops would pull back from Georgia’s heartland by the end of the week. A Russian officer said that « today we can say that the process has started, » although the withdrawal from Gori might be slowed down by badly congested roads. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he expected the withdrawal to pre-conflict positions to be completed within three to four days. As of the 19th, Russian checkpoints still blocked the main east-west highway linking Tbilisi with Georgia’s Black Sea ports. Also on the 19th, President Dmitry Medvedev also said that by August 22 Russia would pull its troops in Georgia back to the positions set out in a French-brokered ceasefire agreement. Also on the 19th, the BBC reported that Medvedev had told his French President Nicolas Sarkozy that the pull-out would be complete by 21-22 August, with the exception of some 500 troops, who would be installed in peacekeeping posts on either side of South Ossetia’s border.
On 20 August, Russian spokesmen made a number of statements: One, speaking to the Moscow Times anonymously at the Kremlin, announced the small troop movement then under way, but explained that it was a « pullback », not a « withdrawal ». Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian military’s General Staff, said that Russia would hold « buffer zones » around South Ossetia and Abkhazia; the latter would include the Georgian city of Senaki. Col. Gen. Anatoly Nogovitsyn, deputy chief of the Russian army general staff, told reporters that Russia would establish 18 long-term checkpoints inside Georgian territory, including at least eight within undisputed Georgian territory, with one just outside the Georgian city of Gori.
On 21 August, The Times reported that Nogovitsyn had said: “The pullback has started at such a pace that by the end of 22 August all the forces of the Russian Federation will be behind the line of our zone of responsibility.” It also reported that Russian checkpoints were still in operation within 25 miles of Tbilisi, and that local military sources were suggesting that it could take up to two weeks for troops to be withdrawn in accordance with the ceasefire agreement brokered by Sarkozy. « Pulling out this much equipment takes time, » said a spokesman for the Russian government traveling with journalists through occupied Georgian territory. « If you want me to estimate how much time, I’d say a couple of weeks before you see a major pullout. »
On 22 August, Reuters reported that, as Russian soldiers were beginning to leave Gori, the extent of the final Russian withdrawal was in doubt; Moscow insisting that it would maintain checkpoints in an unspecified area adjacent to South Ossetia inside Georgia proper. Russian sources cited the Joint Control Commission report of 1999, which provided for a 5 mile (8 km) « security corridor » around South Ossetia which peacekeepers could patrol. Russia says that this provision implies authority to keep its troops on at least parts of Georgia’s main east-west highway. « All activities of the Russian peacekeeping contingent are based on the six principles that were signed in agreement by the presidents of Russia and France, » said Nogovitsyn, in Moscow. He said that Russian troops would patrol and keep control over Poti, Georgia’s main commercial port.
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