Sarkozy under fire over ‘foggy’ Georgia peace plan

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During a meeting with his Estonian and Latvian counterparts in Talinn on Thursday (28 August), Polish President Lech Kaczynski blasted the six-point peace plan negotiated with Russia by French President Nicolas Sarkozy for its failure to mention the need for Moscow to respect Georgia’s borders.

copy of the peace plan, obtained by EURACTIV from the Presidency of Georgia, confirms that the short text does not mention the country’s territorial integrity. The document appears as a single sheet of paper bearing the signatures of French President Sarkozy and Mikheil Saakashvili, his Georgian counterpart . It reads:

  1. Do not resort to force. 
  2. Definitively cease hostilities. 
  3. Give free access to humanitarian aid. 
  4. Georgian military forces must withdraw to their usual barracks. 
  5. Russian military forces must withdraw to the lines occupied before the start of hostilities. Until an international mechanism is put in place, Russian peace keeping troops will implement the security measures. 
  6. Open international discussions over security and stability modalities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. 

European security officials have already argued that the cease-fire agreement brokered by Sarkozy is so vaguely worded that Russia can argue that it is fulfilling its obligations under the pact, even if it does not withdraw troops to the positions they held before fighting broke out on 7 August. 

They highlighted the fact that the document allows Russia to keep “peacekeepers” on the ground without defining either who they are or their responsibilities. It further allows these “peacekeepers” to pursue “security measures,” without defining what those might entail. 

Russia also is benefiting from confusion over how many troops it had in Georgia before the fighting broke out. 

According to media reports, an original draft for a cease-fire, proposed to Russian leaders by Alexander Stubb, Finnish foreign minister and chairman of the OSCE, contained four points, a cornerstone of which was respect for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, including the disputed regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

But the text was set aside when Sarkozy and French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner cranked up their diplomatic activity, sources are quoted as saying.

Failure to mention Georgia’s territorial integrity ‘not an omission’, says Russia

Speaking to EURACTIV, Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizov said the fact that the six-point plan does not include a reference to the territorial integrity of Georgia is “not an omission”.

“Let me refer to the six-point plan of Presidents Medvedev and Sarkozy, which does not include a reference to territorial integrity. And it’s not a mistake, it’s not an omission, it was deliberate, I would say,” said Chizhov, stressing the Russian President’s role in drafting the text. 

“Let me clarify. The document was a joint initiative by Sarkozy and Medvedev. It was not Sarkozy mediating between Medvedev and Saakashvili. It was Medvedev and Sarkozy mediating between Saakashvili and the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians. And of course it was co-written by Medvedev and Sarkozy. And it’s not that Sarkozy had forgotten about territorial integrity, no. But because by then territorial integrity had become a virtual notion regarding Georgia,” Chizov added. 

The manner in which the six-points plan was brokered is also a source of complaints for Georgia.

Several versions of the peace plan

Speaking to EURACTIV a few days ago, Georgian Ambassador to NATO and the EU Salome Samadashvili commented: 

“The Russians are usually very good at confusing everyone. If we are discussing a document, they produce three versions, because this is a very good way of creating confusion. What I know is that the cease-fire agreement which was brokered by the French President and which has also been signed by the French President could under no condition be considered as the same document which would be signed by the two leaders of the two criminal regimes,” she said. 

Samadashvili added: “I can understand why the Russians were trying to portray this is if they were the mediator and not a party. Of course they were not given this opportunity. What we have endorsed is a ceasefire which was signed by the French as a mediator and by the Georgian and the Russian sides.” 

Michael Emerson  of Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) wrote in a recently published policy paper entitled 'Post-Mortem on Europe's First War of the 21st Century': 

"France, as the current EU Presidency holder, moved fast to facilitate the ceasefire, with visits by President Sarkozy to Moscow and Tbilisi brokering a six-point agreement. All but one point are sensible. But Russia insisted on inserting the second fateful phrase under point five, namely that Russia could undertake 'additional security measures' pending agreement on an international mechanism. Sarkozy, acting it seems on his own and clearly travelling without the company of Javier Solana, judged it right to accept this phrase and to virtually impose it on Saakashvili. 

He continues: "Its real meaning became evident by 19 August, when President Medvedev said that Russia would comply in withdrawing its forces by 22 August, except for 500 troops who would stay to implement the second phrase in point five. Maybe the six-point plan stopped the fighting or its further escalation, although the deal was done after Moscow had achieved its apparent military objectives. But it left the door open for the 'additional measures' which look like meaning continued occupation without end." 

On 7 August, Georgian troops invaded the breakaway region of South Ossetia, which is – like the other disputed province of Abkhazia - officially part of the territory of Georgia, but in fact autonomous and largely under Russian influence. Tensions in both regions have been increasing since Kosovo declared independence last February.

Russia responded with massive military action, invading part of Georgia and prompting fears in the West that it may seek to use the occasion to topple Mikheil Saakashvili, the pro-Western Georgian president, and turn Georgia into a vassal state like during Soviet times. According to Russian officials, about 2,000 civilians have died in South Ossetia. Both sides accused each other of genocide. 

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country currently holds the rotating EU Presidency, helped broker a cease-fire agreement between Russia and Georgia in which Russia agreed to withdraw all its troops to their pre-war positions by 22 August. On 25 August, Russia announced that its withdrawal was complete, but the West kept pressuring Moscow for a full withdrawal. 

  • 1 Sept.: Extraordinary EU Council meeting on Georgia and Russia to be held in Brussels. 

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