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UN Security Council Divided On Georgia Resolution

Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN
UNITED NATIONS -- Russia has formally submitted a draft resolution in the UN Security Council aimed at ending the conflict in Georgia.

The draft reaffirms the six-point peace plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and endorsed by his Russian counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev.

The United States, a permanent, veto-wielding member of the council, has already rejected the Russian draft and said it will not support it unless it clearly states that Georgia's territorial integrity is inviolable.

The Russian draft is being presented two days after France put forward another proposal, which in turn was rejected by Moscow.

Two Points Of Concern

Georgia's territorial integrity and sovereignty continues to be the major point of contention between Russia on the one side and France, Britain, and the United States on the other. China, the fifth permanent, veto-holding member of the Security Council, is practically absent from the debate.

Speaking to reporters after the council's seventh emergency meeting on the Georgia crisis in two weeks, France's deputy UN ambassador, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, said that despite their differences the five permanent members are aiming to eventually prepare a document that will be adopted unanimously.

Two major points of concern remain, he said.

"One of them is territorial integrity. We are here at the Security Council -- as I said yesterday, Georgia has a history at the Security Council, and all previous resolutions of the Security Council on Georgia have reaffirmed the commitment of all member states to the sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence of Georgia," Lacroix said.

"The second element, which is crucial, [is] addressing the text in a way conducive to consensus the modalities whereby Russian forces would remain after the withdrawal, and pending the establishment of an international mechanism," he added.

Divisions Run Deep

Although the language exchange in the council this time was less heated compared to previous meetings on Georgia, it is clear that the divisions between the sides run deep and substantial shuttle diplomacy needs to be done until a mutually acceptable document is produced.

Russia does not explicitly say that it will support the independence claims laid out by the breakaway Georgian provinces of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, but at the same time is reluctant to commit itself to the principle of Georgia's territorial integrity.

Russia's UN ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Georgia had lost its legal ground after its military assault on South Ossetia on August 6.

"Some were asking in consultation today why there is no reference to territorial integrity on our draft resolution? Our draft resolution again is the repetition, a reconfirmation, of the six principles," Churkin said. "And you know what? There is no territorial integrity in the six principles. So, if we stick to the six principles which were adopted by the two presidents, there is not supposed to be any reference in the resolution to territorial integrity."

The so-called "six principles" adopted by Sarkozy and Medvedev on August 12 call for nonuse of force, cessation of hostilities, access to humanitarian aid, withdrawal of Georgian forces to their permanent bases, withdrawal of Russian forces to the lines before hostilities broke, and opening of an international discussion on lasting security arrangements for South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The document does not mention Georgia's territorial integrity.

Some diplomats at the UN say that the six-point document was a smart outmaneuvering by Moscow of the Western powers, who were focused solely on ending Russia's military operation in Georgia. Now, they say, many are having second thoughts on the "six points."

'Reflection Of The Ambiguities'

Alejandro Wolff, the U.S. deputy UN ambassador, tried to dispel such notions and reconfirmed Washington's adamant position on Georgia's territorial integrity.

"The fact is that what we see now on the ground is a reflection of the ambiguities that could be helped immensely by the clarifications that have already been expressed by President Sarkozy," Wolff said. "The French draft [resolution] doesn't address those. The draft again doesn't address anything about territorial integrity; neither do the six points. But that doesn't mean that the [European Union], which has articulated its position in a communique, somehow doesn't agree with the territorial integrity of Georgia and the need to reaffirm it."

Having two competing resolutions in public view is an unusual practice for the UN Security Council, which handles its most sensitive debates behind closed doors. Despite encouraging words on "progress" and "understanding," no diplomat agreed to comment on the time frame when the resolution may be eventually adopted.

Crisis In Georgia

Crisis In Georgia
For RFE/RL's full coverage of the conflict that began in Georgia's breakway region of South Ossetia, click here.