Cease-Fire Accord Specifies Russian Troop Withdrawal from Georgia
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 15, 2008 A cease-fire agreement signed today by the president of the former Soviet republic of Georgia calls for Russian troops to immediately leave his country, America’s senior diplomat said in the Georgian capital today.
“And now, with the signature of the Georgian president on this cease-fire accord, all Russian troops and any irregular and paramilitary forces that entered with them must leave immediately,” U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said during a news conference in Tbilisi with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili at her side.
President Bush dispatched Rice to Europe to assist in resolving a now week-long international crisis involving Georgia and Russia. On Aug. 8, Russian tanks and troops crossed the border into the contested northern Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, after Georgian military forces had clashed with separatists in South Ossetia the day before.
The Russian troops caused Georgian forces to retreat south. Since then, the Russians have lodged themselves in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as well as in some Georgian municipalities farther south.
Rice was in Tbilisi today, she said, to demonstrate “the solidarity of the United States with Georgia and its people in this moment of crisis.”
The United States, she said, supports Georgia’s independence, its territorial integrity and its democratically elected government.
“That is America’s position, and in my discussions with my European colleagues, it is the position of the Europeans, as well,” Rice said.
Rice was in France yesterday to consult with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. France and the United States worked together to craft the cease-fire agreement.
“The Russian attack on Georgia had profound implications and will have profound implications for Russia’s relations with its neighbors and with the world,” Rice said in Tbilisi. “But, our most-urgent task today is the immediate and orderly withdrawal of Russian armed forces and the return of those forces to Russia.”
With today’s cease-fire agreement, what’s needed in Georgia now “are international observers on the scene -- fast,” Rice said in Tbilisi. Finnish authorities have indicated that regional security monitors affiliated with the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe could be sent to Georgia in a matter of days, she said. Finland’s Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb is the organization’s chairman for 2008.
“And, eventually, we need a more robust and impartial peacekeeping international force that would follow those monitors,” Rice added.
The Georgian president accused Russia of conducting a premeditated invasion of his country.
“We are under [a] Russian invasion and Russian occupation right now,” Saakashvili declared. “And, we want to end [this] Russian invasion and occupation.”
The United States and other nations are providing humanitarian assistance to the Georgian people, Rice said.
“Access must be immediate and unimpeded for those humanitarian efforts,” Rice said. “When the security situation in Georgia is stabilized, we will turn immediately to reconstruction.”
Rice urged that Georgians who were displaced from their homes during the fighting be allowed to return.
The Defense Department-enabled U.S. humanitarian relief mission to Georgia continues, Rice said. U.S. military transport planes already have delivered millions of dollars worth of humanitarian supplies to Georgians rendered homeless by the fighting.
“That mission will be vigorous and ongoing,” Rice said.
Meanwhile, the United States is working with the Georgian government, the G-7 world economic organization and the International Monetary Fund “to rapidly develop an economic support package for the Georgian economy to build on its demonstrated track record and to resume its rapid growth,” Rice said.
The economic package, Rice said, is designed to “restore Georgia’s economy and reinforce investor confidence as Georgia returns to its position as the leading economy in the region.”
Rice said it is imperative that “Russian forces leave Georgia at once.” The world, she said, needs to help Georgia maintain its sovereignty, its territorial integrity and its independence.
“This is no longer 1968 and the invasion of Czechoslovakia, when a great power invaded a small neighbor and overthrew its government,” Rice said, in recalling the Soviet Union’s invasion of that European nation. “The free world will now have to wrestle with the profound implications of this Russian attack on its neighbor for security in the region and beyond.”