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22 Jul, 2008 04:09

UN fails to settle Georgian airspace row

The UN Security Council has failed to come to any conclusions about the incursion into Georgian airspace by Russian military jets earlier this month. The meeting, called by Georgia, was brief, with Russia accusing the Se

Speaking after the meeting, Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vitaly Churkin said some members of the council “could not overcome their lack of objectivity and well-known pro-Georgian leanings”. 

Tbilisi described the flights on July 9 were an act of military aggression. But Moscow insisted the move was necessary to protect the breakaway region of South Ossetia from a possible Georgian invasion.

Georgia’s conflict with its other breakaway republic – Abkhazia – was another hot issue on the table. Several years ago, Georgia deployed troops in the Upper Kodori Gorge, which Abkhazia says is a violation of peace agreements.

Tbilisi says it wants to reintegrate peacefully both of its breakaway regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Earlier this month, however, residential areas of the South Ossetian capital came under heavy artillery fire from Georgian troops. Tbilisi says it was responding to an earlier attack by South Ossetia. Tensions rose until the South Ossetian authorities claimed that Georgia was poised to launch a full-scale offensive.

Although insisting on a peaceful end to the dispute, Georgia refuses to sign a treaty prohibiting the use of force.

Russia says the Security Council must create the right conditions for a diplomatic resolution of the conflict. Vitaly Churkin says two aspects are key, including moves by Georgia to “dispel doubts about its intentions to sign an agreement on non-use of force in both conflict areas”, he said. Secondly, it is “very important for Georgia to pull its forces from the Upper Kodori Valley”, Churkin said.

Russia has circulated a draft resolution at the Security Council and says a presidential statement is also an option.

Georgia has taken a tough stance on the proposed resolution. The Georgian Ambassador to the UN said the core of the problem is his country’s tense relations with Russia. He admitted Russia should play a role in the conflict resolution, but not as the main partner in the peacekeeping process.

Fifteen years ago a violent conflict between Abkhazia and Georgia claimed thousands of lives. Russian peacekeepers were deployed in the region to keep the warring factions apart.

Later the UN offered to help. And although both  the UN and Russia have troops stationed in the area, there is often trouble in the frozen conflict zone.