• U.S. military aircraft with aid landed in Tbilisi;
• U.S. sends navy to bring humanitarian aid;
• Russia says navy not the best way for that;
• Bush to send Rice to France then to Georgia;
President Bush reiterated the U.S. “unwavering support” to Georgia and said Russia’s actions were not consistent with its commitment on provisional ceasefire.
In a special statement made on August 13 in the presence of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, Bush said the U.S. “stands with the democratically elected government of Georgia” and “insist[s] that the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia be respected.”
He said that the United States would launch a massive humanitarian aid with a U.S. cargo aircraft C-17 with humanitarian supplies. The first C-17 cargo aircraft already landed in Tbilisi late on August 13.
In what appeared to be a pre-arranged greeting to the U.S. military accompanying the humanitarian aid, a group of young Georgians with the national flags chanting “America; America” welcomed the C-17 crew in the airport.
Bush also said that the U.S. would use its naval forces as well, to deliver humanitarian and medical supplies.
“We expect Russia to honor its commitment to let in all forms of humanitarian assistance. We expect Russia to ensure that all lines of communication and transport, including seaports, airports, roads, and airspace, remain open for the delivery of humanitarian assistance and for civilian transit.”
Shortly after that announcement, Andrei Nesterenko, the Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokesman, told CNN that he did not think the navy was “the best way” to deliver humanitarian aid to Georgia.
In the statement Bush also pointed out that Russia has assured it did not seek change of government in Georgia. “The United States and the world expect Russia to honor that commitment,” he said.
He also said that the Russian forces’ most recent moves – involving taking up positions on the major highway outside Gori, blocking the road; blowing up Georgian vessels in the port city of Poti – were inconsistence with the commitment to provisional ceasefire.
“Unfortunately, we're receiving reports of Russian actions that are inconsistent with these statements,” he went on saying and added: “We're concerned about reports that Georgian citizens of all ethnic origins are not being protected. All forces, including Russian forces, have an obligation to protect innocent civilians from attack.”
There have been widespread reports from the South Ossetian conflict zone of looting and violence in the Georgian villages in the region.
Bush said that as part of the U.S. efforts to show its solidarity with Georgia, he was sending Secretary Rice first to France – the French President Nikola Sarkozy has brokered ceasefire provisional agreement between the sides – and then to Tbilisi, where “she will personally convey America's unwavering support for Georgia's democratic government.”
“As I have made clear, Russia's ongoing actions raise serious questions about its intentions in Georgia and the region. In recent years, Russia has sought to integrate into the diplomatic, political, economic, and security structures of the 21st century. The United States has supported those efforts. Now Russia is putting its aspirations at risk by taking actions in Georgia that are inconsistent with the principles of those institutions,” Bush said.
“To begin to repair the damage to its relations with the United States, Europe, and other nations, and to begin restoring its place in the world, Russia must keep its word and act to end this crisis.”
President Saakashvili has welcomed Bush’s statement as “very important” for defusing tensions.
Russia reacted harshly with Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov saying President Bush needs to change his speechwriters.
“Russia has warned the United States that it was playing a dangerous game.”
He added that Moscow was warning Washington against arming Georgia, which, Lavrov, said was considering a military adventurism.