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11 Jul, 2008 20:26

Georgia turns to UN as ambassador quits Moscow

Georgia has asked for an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council to discuss Russia's violation of its air space. Tbilisi withdrew its ambassador from Moscow after Russian fighter jets circled over Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia on

Russia's Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin says Russia backs the Georgian request.

“We are prepared to support that request because as you know several days ago in the Council we expressed our strong concern about the deteriorating situation in the area of the two conflicts, the Georgia-Abkhazian conflict and the Georgian-South Ossetian one”.

Churkin added that a draft resolution had been proposed for the Security Council “to respond to the provocations from the Georgian side”.

Georgia’s ambassador to Russia, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, landed in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Friday evening after being recalled from Moscow for consultations. He said he’d been unable to convince Russia that their decision to send fighter jets to the region was unacceptable to Georgia. 

“I’m very sad about it because during my time in Moscow I failed to convince Russia of the seriousness and depth of our intentions regarding the settlement of bilateral relationships between Russia and Georgia. Those relationships are very important to us. I think the steps taken by Russia are provocative, and unfortunately now we are in such a situation”. 

Kitsmarishvili left Moscow immediately after Russia's Foreign Ministry admitted its jets had carried out a reconnaissance mission over Georgia’s breakaway republic of South Ossetia on Tuesday.

Aggression or preventive measures?

Georgia claimed the violation of its air space was an “act of aggression” and has threatened drastic measures if it happens again. Russia said the flights followed information from peacekeepers in South Ossetia that Georgia was preparing a military incursion.

Marat Kulakhmetov, Head of the Peacekeeping Forces, said: “The Georgian side has been going through the motions that we always see just before a military offensive”.

“The special telephone lines that pass through Tbilisi stopped working in my office, so we couldn't pass on information about the developments in the conflict zone,” he said.

South Ossetia said it was attacked by Georgian troops. At least one person was killed and three others were injured. International observers confirmed that Georgia was using rocket-propelled grenades in the attack on Tskinvali's residential outskirts.

South Ossetia thanks Russia

Recent tensions in South Ossetia topped the agenda at Fridays’ meeting between Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and South Ossetian president Eduard Kokoyty. The latter said Russia’s help was necessary at that moment:

“I would like to point out that the actions taken by Russia towards preventing military aggression against Ossetia were very timely. They helped prevent more tragic consequences and we give credit to Russia for its timely and prompt intervention”.

Russia’s Foreign Minister Lavrov said it will do its best to prevent any military escalation of the conflict.

“We, as the country that assists the regulation of the conflict within the framework of the Joint Control Commission and other frameworks, will in every way possible assist solving the problem. We are hoping that we’ll be able to prevent a violent development of the situation,” Lavrov stated.

Following Thursday’s meeting, Russia’s Foreign Ministry released a statement saying: “a way out of the situation can be found only through stopping the provocation and signing a non-violence agreement as soon as possible, which in the case of Abkhazia should be accompanied by the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the upper reaches of the Kodori gorge,” which is the disputed border zone between Georgia and Abkhazia.

An escalation in the violence coincided with the visit of Condoleezza Rice to the region. Georgia's plan to engage international forces to keep peace in both breakaway regions has been supported by the U.S. state department.


South Ossetia split from Georgia in a violent conflict in the 1990s. A joint Russian, Georgian, North- and South Ossetian peacekeeping force works in the region under a special mandate. South Ossetia remains a part of Georgia, officially, but Tbilisi has no control over the area and has called for international forces to enter the region.

The recent tension is the latest between Russia and Georgia over Georgia’s breakaway regions. In Abkhazia, recent blasts have left four people dead and more than a dozen injured. Abkhazia has accused Tbilisi of organising the attacks, something Tblisi has denied, and closed the border with Georgia.