Russia agrees to peace plan, but keeps troops in war zone (Roundup)

August 12th, 2008 - 11:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Moscow, Aug 12 (DPA) Russia Tuesday agreed to a French-promoted six-point plan for a cessation of hostilities in the south Caucasus but decided to keep its troops stationed in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and visiting French President Nicolas Sarkozy presented a six-point plan in Moscow for a cessation of hostilities in the region and called for a lasting end to the use of force by all the parties to the conflict.

Russia was committing to withdraw all its troops to the positions they were holding before the outbreak of the conflict in Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, Medvedev said in a joint press conference with Sarkozy in Moscow.

He, however, said that Georgia had to do the same.

Medvedev also said that Russian troops were to remain stationed in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia

“They are the deciding factor for security in the Caucasus,” the Russian leader said, referring to the troops deployment in the region.

Earlier in the meeting, Medvedev informed his French counterpart that he ordered an end to Moscow’s military offensive in the region.

“What you are saying is good news. It is now necessary to consolidate the ceasefire,” Sarkozy said in his response.

The French leader told Medvedev that it was “normal” for Moscow to defend Russian-speaking people beyond its borders, but the territorial integrity of another country should also be respected.

Meanwhile, the UN Security Council was studying Tuesday a draft resolution calling for an immediate and unconditional end of hostilities in Georgia and the complete withdrawal of Russian and Georgian forces to their positions held prior to Aug 7.

The draft written by France, which holds the current presidency of the European Union, was distributed late Monday to the council’s 15 members as Russian forces expanded their holds in Georgian territory.

The fighting between Russia and Georgia erupted last week after Moscow alleged that Georgian troops attacked South Ossetia, an breakaway Georgian enclave inhabited by Russian citizens. Since Aug 7, the fighting has widened to Abkhazia, another separatist Georgian province.

The draft faces a certain Russian veto in the council if it were to be put to a vote.

It calls on UN members to reaffirm their commitment to respect Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence.

It stresses “the urgent need for all parties to refrain from further use of force”, and calls on “all parties to engage immediately in negotiations aimed at finding a peaceful and durable solution.”

The council had been holding daily meetings since the fighting in South Ossetia broke out, but had not been able to take any decisions to halt the spread of the war.

In Brussels, NATO chief Jaap de Hoop Scheffer said Tuesday that despite the conflict with Russia, Georgia remained on track to become a member of alliance.

Scheffer also welcomed reports of a Russian end to hostilities in its neighbouring country, but stressed that this was only a first step.

“It is very important that all parties go back to the status quo as it existed on the 6th of August,” he said, adding: “All forces must be in the position they had on that date.”

The NATO chief was speaking after an emergency meeting convened at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels. During the talks, ambassadors of the 26 member states were briefed by their Georgian colleague.

De Hoop Scheffer said the allies had deplored the “disproportionate use of force” by the Russians, they expressed their “solidarity” to Georgia and “reiterated in very strong terms the full respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia,” including its breakaway provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

During the meeting, Georgia presented a number of specific request for assistance from NATO. Those requests “will be studied by the NATO allies on an urgent basis,” the secretary general said, without providing further details.

Georgia is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace programme and was promised full membership of the alliance at an unspecified later stage during a NATO summit in Bucharest held in April.

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