Russia’s reckless acts in its drive to incite and support separatist movements in Georgia must be countered by the international community, President Saakashvili said in a speech at the UN General Assembly on September 26.
In particular, Saakashvili slammed Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for his remarks made to reporters in New York on the same day. He said that in the September 20 incident Georgian special ops forces had captured and then brutally executed two Abkhaz militiamen.
“This morning a senior Russian official,” Saakashvili said in his address, “made very unconstructive and unsubstantiated and untrue accusations against Georgian forces, saying that they killed two innocent people in Upper Abkhazia.”
“What this senior Russian official failed to say, however, is that one of the people was a lieutenant colonel of the Russian military and he was killed during a law enforcement operation against armed separatist insurgents.”
“One has to wonder,” Saakashvili continued, “what was a lieutenant colonel of the Russian army doing in the Georgian forests, organizing and leading a group of armed insurgents in a mission of subversion and violence?”
(In a transcript of Saakashvili’s speech, issued by the Georgian foreign ministry on September 27, this line, however, says: “leading a group of armed insurgents on a mission of terror.”)
“I want to ask our Russian friends: is there not enough territory in Russia? Are not there enough forests in Russia for Russian officers not to die on Georgian territory in the Georgian forests, for them not to fight in a foreign territory for God knows what cause?”
He said that the Russian lieutenant colonel had been serving in the Russian peacekeeping forces and subsequently in the local Abkhaz militia.
President Saakashvili also said that “elements in Russia are actively and illegally building a new big military base” in the South Ossetian stronghold of Java in the north of the breakaway region.
Java is located outside the officially recognized borders of the conflict zone – an area within a 15-km radius of the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali. OSCE observers who are deployed in the region to monitor the situation in the conflict zone are not entitled to carry out any inspections beyond this 15-km radius.
Saakashvili said in his address that “this dangerous escalation is taking place under the very noses of international monitors whose job is to demilitarize this territory.”
He said Georgia had “very conclusive evidence”, including video footage, to confirm the reports of Russians assisting South Ossetian secessionist authorities in building the military base in Java.
“Reckless acts like this must be highlighted and countered,” Saakashvili told the international community, “Our collective job today is not to ask how this can be possible, rather it is to act with determination.”
He said that “the only obstacle” to integrating South Ossetia was the separatist regime that basically consisted of “elements from security services from neighboring Russia who have no historic ethnic links to this territory.”
In an apparent attempt to give more promotion to Dimitri Sanakoev, the head of the Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian provisional administration, Saakashvili stated that this new force on the ground represented the people of South Ossetia.
Saakashvili said that Sanakoev was “chosen by the people of South Ossetia in democratic elections to represent them.”
“We should respect the courage of those ethnic Ossetians who decided to take this path within Georgia,” he said and added that the emergence of this new force was an opportunity for peace.
He called on the international community “to seize this historic opportunity and to avoid an escalation of violence which is also an eventuality and a major risk.”
‘UN Failed in Making Georgia Whole’
In his speech Saakashvili also criticised the UN for its failure to bring a lasting peace to Abkhazia and for a failure to facilitate the return of hundreds of thousands of forcibly displaced persons to Abkhazia.
“UN tries to bring peace into this region,” Saakashvili said, “but it has not succeeded in making Georgia whole.”
He warned that every day that passes without a peaceful resolution to the conflict in Abkhazia, “marks a slow erosion of credibility of this House of its ability to fulfill its mission.”
He also said that not a single “in-depth analysis” had been conducted in fourteen years into why the UN efforts had failed.
For this reason and in order to inject a new positive dynamic, he said, “I am calling on the UN today to launch a comprehensive review of all aspects of the peace process.”
This review, he pointed out, should result in “fundamental changes” and first and foremost in the negotiation format and peacekeeping operation, “which is stagnant and counterproductive.”
“Years of biased and unbalanced actions by supposed peacekeeping forces must be replaced by the competent and neutral ones that will be engaged in peace-building rather than maintaining so called status quo and injustice,” Saakashvili said. He called for change to the Russian-led peacekeeping operation in his address to the UN last year, too.
He also said that “a meaningful and implementable plan” was needed to facilitate the return of displaced people.
Saakashvili also said that direct dialogue between Tbilisi and Sokhumi should resume “without any precondition and without any involvement of sides that are against of dialogue.”
Sokhumi has continued to link the resumption of dialogue to preconditions, such as the withdrawal of Georgian forces from the upper Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia.
Saakashvili reiterated that Tbilisi was offering security, full self-governance, and changes in the Georgian constitution to enshrine the protection of minorities, including language rights, the protection of culture and education. He said Tbilisi was ready to offer these proposals under international guarantee.
“I have a faith that we will succeed and their [separatists’] masters and manipulators will not succeed,” Saakashvili said.
During the speech, Saakashvili made an apparent attempt to mend fences with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon by welcoming his, as Saakashvili put it, “innovative leadership.” In early September, Saakashvili criticized him for giving “amoral and meager recommendations” to Tbilisi in respect of Abkhazia.
In his speech the Georgian leader also spoke about his administration’s achievements in developing the country’s economy. He also voiced his solidarity with “hundreds of thousands peaceful protesters, monks and ordinary citizens” in their efforts to seek freedom for the people of Burma.