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19 août 2008 - Géorgie : Stake out de Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Chargé d’affaires a.i., suivi de questions

Good afternoon,

Let me explain why we took the initiative of requesting this meeting today and also submitting a draft resolution.

France, as the president of the European Union, committed intensively at the highest levels to try to find a solution to the Georgian crisis and the result of these efforts by Minister Kouchner, by President Sarkozy was the six point agreement which was signed by Russia, by Georgia and by South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Now we have to implement this commitment, in the six point plan, and in particular, a particularly important element, necessary : the withdrawal of forces as envisaged in the plan.

And today what is particularly important is that Russia makes good on its commitment to withdraw its forces to the position they had prior to the outbreak of violence. Georgia has no immediate army potential anymore, it has been defeated and how else could it have been, given the imbalance of the two powers ? So I don’t think that there is any reason why Russia has to maintain its troops any longer. It has subscribed to the six point agreement and now it has to deliver to this commitment.

President Sarkozy and other French authorities have repeatedly requested Russia to abide by this commitment of withdrawing its forces. We have done it repeatedly over the last days, and so far we have not seen anything that points to any credible sign of withdrawal of Russian forces. And that is why today we decided to seize the Security Council, to press upon the parties, and press upon Russia in particular that these commitments, the commitments they have agreed to, have to be respected.

If these essential commitments regarding the cessation of hostilities, particularly regarding the withdrawal of armed forces are not respected, it is very difficult for all of us, who want to make efforts, who want to be engaged actively to find a solution, to continue our efforts. We are completely committed - France is completely committed, the EU, the US is committed together with others - to continue what we have started, but we need these commitments to be implemented on the ground, and we need Russian forces to withdraw immediately.

We have heard today the Russian Permanent Representative state that the withdrawal would be completed by August, 22. We hope of course that we will see this commitment materialized on the ground. We will watch the situation very carefully, but, I repeat, this is absolutely essential so that we can continue what we have started to doing as the Presidency of the EU.

So that is essentially the rationale behind the initiative we took today.

Q/A

So why are you pushing for this resolution when you know that the Russians are still withdrawing, and it will take more time for armies usually to withdraw then to go into any country ?

Well, that is clearly not our assessment. We haven’t, as I said, seen any sign so far of a credible and significant withdrawal, even the beginning of a withdrawal.

The Russian ambassador today said that he could not support this resolution. Will you push for a vote on it anyway ?

What is important is to achieve this objective with full respect of commitments. So we will definitely, as I said, remain vigilant and follow the situation. Obviously, what happens on the ground and whether commitments, reiterated today by Russia, on the withdrawal of their troops will be followed by action, it will be very important. But at this stage, basically, let’s see whether we see some difference on the ground, and then we’ll see how we proceed. But definitely, the objective is to see this commitment materialized.

Mr Churkin is saying again and again that they agreed to a draft resolution if it talks about the six-point agreement. Why you don’t have the six-point agreement in the draft ? Why only the word "cease-fire" ?

Well , I think the answer to that is very simple.

We are committed to the six-point agreement. We will continue to do everything we can so that it be implemented. But in order for this plan to be implemented, there is an essential prerequisite, which is withdrawal of Russian forces. As I say, everybody understands that there is no Georgian military potential or threat, or at least any significant Georgian potential after the hostilities. Russia clearly prevailed militarily, and that should not come as a surprise. But now it’s time for Russia to withdraw its troops and then we will be able to move towards continuing our efforts for the implementation of the plan. But that is the sequence.

Will you wait until August 22nd before a vote ?

We will obviously see what happens on the ground in the days to come. And obviously we have heard this date of August 22nd so its an important element for us which we have to take into account.

Ambassador, just to make sure, why does France think that the word of "territorial integrity" is something that you can never make a compromise and drop it from your draft ?

Well I think our position on that is very clear, and this is also the position of all members of the European Union. We are committed to Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity ; and indeed this is also the position of the Security Council. That has been restated again and again, in every single resolution of the Security Council on the Georgian issue.

Mr Ambassador, when you "vented" in blue the resolution, my second question is, that the Russians said that it did not include all of the six points of the agreement, particularly the one concerning security measures which Russia would be allowed to take. Why is that sir ?

As I say, the resolution is on the table, now we have had this meeting. We’ve heard the Russian ambassador, we have to see how commitments are implemented on the ground. That is the objective.

And again, on your second question, the six-point agreement is the framework that allows us to move towards a durable solution. But we need a lot of efforts to get to that point. We are ready to do that, we are ready to continue these efforts. The European Union has stated its readiness to be involved, including troop presence on the ground. We have seen the OSCE deciding today to send additional observers in limited quantity, but it is a first step, we hope followed up by other steps. But in order for all this goodwill to materialize and to be able to continue to a solution, there has to be prospect of the realization of the commitment and particularly the withdrawal of Russian forces. How can we possibly continue a serious and hopefully useful series of efforts if we do not have this essential prerequisite which is the withdrawal of the forces ?

When you put the six-point plan forward, how did France envision negotiations about the future of Abkhazia and South Ossetia ? Is the idea that any status is on the table about Kosovo or that regardless and no matter how the discussions go they will always remain a part of Georgia ? What is the idea behind the six-point plan ?

As I said, this is one element of the plan. I think it is the sixth element of the plan, the opening of international discussion. It has to be determined how exactly this discussion will be organized and will be carried out, but let me say that, again, we are committed to Georgia’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is no question about that, it is our position.

Isn’t the language of this proposed resolution more confrontational with red lines towards Russia such as territorial integrity and so forth, in effect forcing a veto ?

I do not think that it is a confrontational initiative. Indeed, if you look at all France has done since the beginning of this crisis, I think it can be qualified in many ways but not confrontational. We have actually worked to reach an agreement, we have obtained that agreement - it was , as I said, signed by Russia, Georgia, the South Ossetia side and the Abkhaz side. So it is completely the opposite of a confrontational approach. It is an approach that aims at achieving an agreement, but we need the help of all those involved, and particularly we need the commitment and the respect by those who signed the agreement, the respect of the commitment that they agreed to.

Why is there no criticism whatsoever from Europe to the attackers ? I mean, the Georgians. Everybody have been saying that Georgia started this conflict.

That is your assessment. We have never wanted to intervene in this blame game. We wanted to, and we still want to help achieve an agreement. That is our only objective. And we will continue to work towards that objective.



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