President Saakashvili said at a joint news conference with his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, after midnight on September 9 that he thought “a step forward was made.”
“A step forward on the path towards the full implementation of the six points negotiated by President Sarkozy on Aug 12,” Saakashvili said.
He, however, also said that it was just an “initial stage of the huge work which is ahead of us.”
“We have a long way ahead towards the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity,” Saakashvili said. “There is no way Georgia will ever give up a piece of its sovereignty, a piece of its territory.”
He also emphasized that Russian troops should pull out not only from the so-called buffer zones created by the Russian occupation forces deep inside Georgian territories, but also from areas never under their control before, as envisaged by the six-point plan – the return to pre-August 7 lines.
“Of course, they should get the hell out of the territories they control,” he said. “They have nothing to do there.”
“What are they doing in the region of Akhalgori; that has never been [in] the South Ossetia; somebody decided that it is in South Ossetia and now they are there… They should get out of the territories that have never been under their control,” Saakashvili said.
Akhalgori (or Leningori as it is still called by the South Ossetian side) administratively is part of the former autonomous district of South Ossetia; the area, however, has never been under the control of the South Ossetian secessionist authorities.
President Sarkozy arrived in Tbilisi after reaching an agreement on a timetable for the withdrawal of Russian forces from undisputed Georgian territories with his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, in Moscow on September 8.
The agreement envisages the replacement of Russian troops by at least 200 EU observers. Certain ambiguity, however, emerged about the exact proposed location of the EU observers after the news conference in Tbilisi.
When asked whether the agreement would allow the 200 EU monitors to enter South Ossetia, President Sarkozy responded, as translated into Georgian on the Georgian Public Broadcaster: “Their mandate envisages operating also within the administrative borders.”
But in Moscow, speaking at a joint press conference with his Russian counterpart, Sarkozy said, as translated into English on BBC: “These [EU] observers, monitors will be based outside the administrative limitation of Abkhazia and Ossetia.”
President Medvedev said while reading out the agreement at the joint news conference with his French counterpart: “The full withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia to pre-conflict lines. This process of withdrawal will be carried out within 10 days after the international mechanism is in place no later than October 1, 2008 in those zones, involving no less than 200 EU observers, assuming there are legally binding documents guaranteeing the non-use of forces against Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
President Saakashvili said the EU observers would “step-by-step” cover the entire territory of Georgia, including South Ossetia. He cited a statement signed by President Sarkozy and President of European Commission José Manuel Barroso, in which the EU reaffirms its support for the territorial integrity of Georgia and condemns Russia’s unilateral recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Saakashvili said that the statement, which is dated September 9, 2008, says: “’European Union observers will cover the entire territory of Georgia and not only so-called ‘Georgia proper’ – there is no such thing as ‘Georgia proper.’ Georgian proper is Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia is a very small country; this is the argument of the aggressors and invaders, to use the term ‘Georgia proper’ and something else.”
He was referring to the term which is often used to describe undisputed Georgian territories outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“EU observers step-by-step, as it was rightly said by President Sarkozy, should cover the entire territory of Georgia,” Saakashvili added.
In his remarks at the news conference, Saakashvili thanked several times President Sarkozy personally, saying “we are lucky that France is now EU presidency and the French president is such a brave person.”
He also said the French president’s role was of “historic importance.” “It was possible to stop the Russian aggression thanks to your involvement,” Saakashvili added.
Sarkozy said in Tbilisi: “Europe will be very vigilant on the realisation of the agreement we have reached with President Medvedev. If this agreement is applied as I hope and as I believe, we will have avoided deaths, misery and suffering.”