Russia blocks UN draft on Georgia

August 20th, 2008 - 4:33 pm ICT by IANS  

United Nations, Aug 20 (RIA Novosti) Russia has blocked a UN Security Council draft resolution calling for an immediate withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia, saying the document contradicts a previously agreed peace plan. The draft, submitted Tuesday by France on behalf of the European Union and backed by the US, did not go to a vote at the Security Council, where Russia has the power of veto.

Russia’s UN envoy Vitaly Churkin said: “The Russian Federation cannot support this… Putting it to a vote would be a waste of time.”

He said the draft omits four parts of the six-point peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Moscow, while distorting the remaining two points.

“Taking separate parts of the Moscow plan and reinterpreting them for political propaganda - this is not a constructive route,” he said.

The Moscow plan recognized Russia’s right to take necessary security measures, and did not call for an “immediate” withdrawal, Churkin said.

Earlier Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, who had also visited Moscow to mediate in a peace deal after Russian troops entered Georgia following Tbilisi’s offensive in breakaway South Ossetia, accused Moscow of breaking its promise to withdraw troops.

Explaining the new draft, French deputy envoy Jean-Pierre Lacroix told the Security Council that while Paris still backs the plan agreed by Sarkozy and his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, “in order for this plan to be implemented, there is an essential prerequisite which is the withdrawal of Russian forces”.

The draft also calls for Georgian forces to return to their positions before the conflict, which broke out in the early hours of Aug 8 when Georgia began a major ground and air offensive on South Ossetia, in which Russia says 1,600 civilians were killed.

The draft would have committed Security Council members to “the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders”.

However, Russia has said that South Ossetia, along with Georgia’s other rebel province Abkhazia, must be allowed to make their own decisions on their status.

The Security Council’s emergency session came hours after NATO froze ties with Russia, saying “business as usual” could not continue until a complete Russian withdrawal from Georgia.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov hit back at NATO’s statement Tuesday, calling it “biased” and aimed at supporting Georgia’s “aggressive regimeā€.

“NATO is trying to turn an aggressor into a victim, is attempting to whitewash a criminal regime and save a fallen regime, and is taking a course toward re-arming the current Georgian leaders,” he said.

The Sarkozy-Medvedev six-point plan stipulated renouncing the use of force, halting all military action, providing free access to humanitarian aid, the return of Georgian forces to their bases, the return of Russian forces to their positions prior to combat, and the start of international discussions on the future status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

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