Bush calls on Russia to end Georgia crisisAugust 17th, 2008 - 2:58 am ICT by IANS
Washington, Aug 17 (DPA) US President George W. Bush called on Moscow to end the crisis in Georgia as Russian President Dimitry Medvedev signed a six-point European Union-mediated peace plan in the conflict over the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. “Russia needs to honour the agreement and withdraw its forces, and of course end military operations,” Bush said from his ranch in Crawford, Texas.
Medvedev’s signature Saturday came a day after Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili signed the document aimed at defusing the crisis in the Caucasus.
The plan was brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the EU.
The agreement is not a peace settlement but provides the basis for a legally binding text to end the fighting and pave the way for a political solution.
The United Nations Security Council is to formalize the six principles.
One of the key points of the plan is the withdrawal of Russian armed forces to positions held before hostilities began in the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia last week.
Bush said Saturday South Ossetia and Abkhazia were “a part of Georgia, and the international community has repeatedly made clear that they will remain so.”
“Georgia’s borders should command the same respect as every other nation’s.
“There’s no room for debate on this matter,” Bush said.
Earlier in his weekly radio address, Bush said the world had witnessed with “alarm as Russia invaded a sovereign neighboring state and threatened a democratic government elected by its people.”
“This act is completely unacceptable to the free nations of the world,” Bush said.
“To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must act to end this crisis,” Bush said.
Russian tanks and personnel carriers Saturday moved back a short distance from the Russian Army’s most advanced positions in Georgia.
The group of five tanks and four armoured personnel carriers exited the central Georgian town of Igueti in the early afternoon.
The village had marked the closest point of Russia’s offensive towards the Georgian capital Tbilisi.
The Russian armour/infantry force had arrived in the area on Friday evening, raising fears in the Georgian capital of an impending Russian assault.
Igueti residents said the Russian troops behaved properly and did not loot or otherwise make difficulties for villagers.
The Russian force retired approximately 5 kilometres, setting up a new road checkpoint just short of a bridge crossing the Lekhura river.
Observers from the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) said the short distance of the Russian withdrawal was in part due to the Russians’ excavating mines as they fell back.
They said it was in part because Moscow was unlikely to pull its troops fully out of Georgia before extracting further concessions from Saakashvili.
The Russian Army’s General Staff in Moscow denied reports that Russian troops are still in Gori, north-west of the Georgian capital Tbilisi, or in the Black Sea port of Poti.
“Presently we have no units in Gori or Poti,” Deputy Chief of Staff General Anatoly Nagovitsin said as reported by the Interfax news agency.
Russian troops were still in the vicinity of Gori, he said, because they had discovered a Georgian base there with 15 tanks.
Other points in the peace plan include no recourse to use violence between the protagonists, the cessation of hostilities, the granting of access to humanitarian aid, the return of Georgian armed forces to their usual quarters and the opening of international discussions on the modalities of security and stability of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
The framework plan falls short of the original proposal by the EU presidency.
The draft had called for the “full respect for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia” and the deployment of an EU or UN peacekeeping force.
On the political front, German Chancellor Angela Merkel was set to visit Tbilisi Sunday to meet Saakashvili.
She will press for the rapid implementation of the peace plan, government officials said in Berlin Saturday.
“The ceasefire must be verifiable and durable,” German government sources said.
Merkel met with Medvedev in the Black Sea resort of Sochi on Friday.
Meanwhile, Polish President Lech Kaczynski Saturday criticized Germany and France for what he considered their pliability towards Russia in the Caucasus crisis.
Both Western European countries have had a “very typical” relationship with Russia, Kaczynski said in an interview published in the Rzeczpospolita daily.
This position of the two countries is due to “the historical experiences and interests of corporations” that are looking to make “big money” in Russia.
Kaczynski said he was disappointed that the European Union decisions in the Georgian crisis were made “between Berlin and Paris”.
Kaczynski and the leaders of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia condemned the actions of Russian forces in a sternly-worded joint statement and travelled to Tbilisi to express solidarity with Georgia.