- Title: UN/VARIOUS: Russia faces diplomatic isolation
- Date: 29th August 2008
- Summary: (BN17) UNITED NATIONS (FILE) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF THE UNITED NATIONS BUILDING
- Reuters ID: LVA1TMZSIT1425VZXOG0I4QX62R0
- Duration: 00:00:06
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- Topics: International Relations
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- Story Text: Russia faces increased diplomatic isolation over its military action against Georgia, as Russia and Georgia trade harsh words during an open United Nations Security Council meeting.
U.S. and Russian envoys exchanged sharp words on Thursday (August 28) over Iraq and Kosovo at a United Nations Security Council meeting on Georgia.
It was the council's sixth emergency session on the crisis in the former Soviet republic, which Russia invaded earlier this month to thwart an attempt by Tbilisi to restore its control over a breakaway region.
The meeting was requested by Georgia who demanded that Russia withdraw its military forces from the state. Irakli Alasania, the Georgian Ambassador to the United Nations, told the Security Council, "Russia continues to occupy the territory of Georgia ensuring the maximum damage to stability, to the economy of my country. On our part, we are complying with the cease-fire agreement and fully commit ourselves to it. We demand the same action for the other parties in the conflict. The Russian Federation has to withdrawal its forces from the Georgian territory to the pre-conflict locations."
Like the five previous council meetings on the brief war this month between Russia and Georgia, the 15-nation body passed no resolution or statement due to Russia's veto powers.
The meeting was characterized by Cold War-style exchanges of insults between the U.S. and Russian United Nations ambassadors that reflected the growing tensions between the two countries.
U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff told the meeting it was a violation of the U.N. charter for member states to use force against others, or threaten to use it, and suggested that Moscow's claims to be protecting Russian citizens in Georgia's South Ossetia region were a sham. He said, "If this wanton effort to dismember Georgia through military force under the guise of self-defined peacekeeping can not be condemned, the very foundations of the international order that this organization was founded to uphold will be in jeopardy. We should all be concerned by the manner in which Russia has acted, just as much as we are concerned about what Russia has done. Russia did not call for this body, or other international institutions, to consider facts regarding Abkhazia or South Ossetia as Russia perceives those facts. Russia did not work through legitimate international institutions available to it to deal with the concerns it has raised since August 7, and Russia did not need to recognize two Georgian regions. A decision made possible by its overwhelming military might."
Russia's U.N. envoy, Vitaly Churkin, suggested Wolff's statement was hypocritical and referred to the U.S.-led March 2003 invasion of Iraq, which Moscow strongly opposed. He said, "I must say that I, in particular, liked the statement of the permanent representative of the United States, reminding the members of the Security Council that states in their activity must refrain from the use or the threat of the use of force, and I would like to ask the distinguished representative of the United States, 'Weapons of mass destruction. Have you found them yet in Iraq or are you still looking for them?"
Wolff, in return, accused Churkin of making false comparisons. He said,
"As to the specious comparisons, that's the only word really I can find, between Kosovo and between what Ambassador Churkin characterizes as similarities or lack of similarities, I really think it is a very ineffective device when you can't address the problem your confronted with at the moment.
That is how can Russia explain its continuing occupation, its invasion of a sovereign country whose territorial integrity, you heard, was supported by virtually every member who spoke around the table today and efforts to draw us into comparisons really miss the point."
Despite the sharp exchanges, Churkin said some good came out of the meeting. He said, "We were able to put on the record of the Security Council officially our decision, the decision of the president of the Russian Federation president to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia."
The Security Council has so far refused to accept a request from envoys of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia recognized this week as independent states, to address it.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said at a news conference in Rome earlier on Thursday evening (August 28) that he does not want to see the western world split following the recent crisis in Georgia.
"I have worked hard to try and resolve this international crisis' Berlusconi told reporters.
"I am working at the moment to stop any dangerous moves that will lead to a risk for the western world because there is nothing worse than a fragmented western world. We have done all we can in order to allow Russia to take part in the West and we hope this crisis will not change this previous situation' he said.
Berlusconi has a close relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin who was the first head of state to meet with the Italian prime minister after his inauguration earlier in the year.
White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters on Thursday (August 28) the U.S. is in the process of re-evaluating its relationship with Russia, a move that could include imposing sanctions on Moscow, over the Georgia crisis.
"We are doing that in concert with our international partners," she said.
She also said it was premature to say what kind of sanctions against Russia would be considered.
The United States is "not going to be rushed into making decisions without having thoroughly looked at all of the issues," Perino said.
The State Department dismissed as "patently false" a charge by Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin that someone in the United States provoked the conflict to help one of the two candidates in the U.S.
presidential election in November.
"Those types of charges that the United States was involved in instigating it are without foundation and as I said earlier ludicrous, plain and simple," said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.
Russia's powerful Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said in a CNN interview he suspected someone in the United States had provoked the Georgia conflict to make the situation more tense and create "a competitive advantage for one of the candidates fighting for the post of U.S. president." He did not elaborate.
The crisis flared early this month when Georgian forces tried to retake the separatist province of South Ossetia and Russia launched an overwhelming counter-attack.
Russian forces swept the Georgian army out of the rebel region and are still occupying some areas of Georgia proper. On Tuesday Moscow announced that it was recognising South Ossetia and another breakaway region, Abkhazia, as independent states.
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