• Rice arrives in Tbilisi for crisis talks;
• Merkel holds talks with Medvedev before heading to Tbilisi;
President Saakashvili said he would take a closer look at the U.S. proposals before signing an already drafted six-point deal on ceasefire, brokered by EU and its French presidency.
U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, arrived in Tbilisi on August 15 after holding talks with President Sarkozy in France.
When asked a direct question whether he would sign or not the French-negotiated plan endorsed by the United States and Russia as well, Saakashvili told CNN’s Larry King: “We have to see what she [Secretary Rice] has to bring.”
“We are still in negotiating process but one thing should be made clear – Russians are trying to justify their invasion and to legalize their presence in Georgia and without genuine international peacekeepers, without genuine international transparency, this people are going to make much more trouble for us and for the rest of Europe,” he said.
Georgia seems to be unhappy with the concessions it has to make if it signs the deal. The provision dealing with the continuation of presence of Russian troops in South Ossetia with the status of peacekeepers is among Tbilisi’s concerns.
Pre-conflict status quo – or as it is now know, the August 6 status quo – saw the situation, wherein there were Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the South Ossetian conflict zone. JPKF involved three battalions – from Russia and Russia’s North Ossetia each and Georgian the third.
Russia has been strongly against of restoring status quo in this regard. As a result the six-point plan reads: “Pending an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces [and not JPKF] will implement additional security measures.”
Although it leaves room for internationalization of the security measures on the ground, the plan does not give any firm guarantees. EU foreign ministers said at an emergency meeting in Brussels on August 13 that the bloc should be ready to commit itself on the ground and French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner said many EU member states were ready to contribute monitors to observe ceasefire on the ground, but on the condition that the move is endorse by UN – a precondition that gives Russia a lever to block the move.
Georgia also fears that absence of commitment to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity in the text may have negative long-term consequences. What Tbilisi managed to achieve so far is to remove the provision calling for defining the status of the two breakaway regions. Tbilisi viewed this provision as source of different interpretations, including the possibility to question the Georgia’s territorial integrity.
The current wording of the provision is as follows: “Opening of international talks on the security and stability arrangements in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”