September 2008 Monthly Forecast

Posted 27 August 2008
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EUROPE

Georgia

Expected Council Action
The Council is expected to continue its focus on Georgia in September. At press time, it had met seven times in a combination of closed consultations and open meetings. Two draft resolutions, one by France and the other by Russia, were on the table at the end of August. The Council may also have to consider the impact of Russia’s recognition on 26 August of South Ossetian and Abkhazian independence. 

Recent Developments
The Russia-Georgia conflict began on 7 August when the Georgian military deployed a large force into South Ossetia to “neutralise” rebel forces. Russia responded by sending in its troops. (Please see our 12 August Update Report for more details.)

By 15 August Russia and Georgia had signed a ceasefire plan brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, current president of the EU. On 15 August, Georgia signed the agreement containing the following six principles:

  1. all parties to renounce the use of force;
  2. immediate cessation of hostilities;
  3. free access to humanitarian aid;
  4. withdrawal of Georgian forces to their places of permanent deployment;
  5. withdrawal of Russian forces to the line prior to 7 August 2008 (the additional provision to this principle that “pending the definition of an international mechanism, the Russian peacekeeping forces may implement additional security measures” was further clarified in a letter from Sarkozy to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili); and
  6. international discussions on lasting security and stability arrangements for Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Since the start of the conflict on 7 August, the Council has met several times both as a whole and at the expert level. A second French draft resolution was circulated on 19 August when the Council met in closed consultations and in an open meeting. The French draft contained the following:

  • reaffirmation of Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity;
  • a demand for full and immediate compliance with the ceasefire agreement; and
  • a demand for the immediate withdrawal of Russian forces to pre-7 August positions and the return of Georgian forces to their usual bases.

On 20 August, Russia produced its own draft resolution on the situation in Georgia. It contained the six principles of the ceasefire agreement but did not mention Georgia’s sovereignty, independence or territorial integrity.

On 21 August, the Council discussed in closed consultations the French and Russian drafts, the nature of the withdrawal and the modalities that might allow some Russian troops to remain in Georgia. Russia later formally circulated its draft.

On 22 August, Russia announced that it had completed the pullout of troops from Georgia. Britain, France and the UK said the withdrawal was not complete and called for further withdrawal.

On 26 August, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev signed decrees recognising South Ossetia and Abkahzia as independent states.

French President Sarkozy has called an EU leaders summit for 1 September to discuss future relations between the EU and Russia.

At a 19 August meeting, NATO ministers called on Russia to observe a ceasefire and withdraw its troops immediately and said that under the present circumstances NATO could not have “business as usual” relations with Russia. The next day Russia said it would halt military cooperation with NATO.

Options
The Council has the following options:

  • continue negotiations on a consensual resolution;
  • vote on the Russian draft; or
  • choose not to take any action.

Another option during the month if a resolution is adopted is a second resolution elaborating on the details of the international mechanism referred to in the Sarkozy-Medvedev agreement.

An additional option is to ask the Secretary-General to prepare recommendations on the role of the UN in monitoring the ceasefire and for the UN Observer Mission in Georgia’s (UNOMIG) future.

Key Issues
The key issue is what role the Council can play in resolving the current crisis. Related to this is whether having a consensual resolution at this point can reinforce the peace in this tenuous situation.

A connected issue is how much adopting a resolution can move forward unresolved issues such as:

  • the consequences of the 26 August Russian recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia;
  • legitimacy and implications of the security zone mentioned in Sarkozy’s letter where the Russian peacekeeping forces would implement additional security measures;
  • incentives that could be provided to Georgia in order for it to agree to abide by a resolution that, from its point of view, would be a less than perfect solution;
  • the need for a more definite timetable for allowing the Russian peacekeepers to “implement additional security measures”; and
  • whether international observers will be necessary in the immediate future and would this involve UNOMIG expanding to South Ossetia or will there need be two separate missions and how will this affect UNOMIG’s mandate.

A significant issue is how to address key contentious matters such as territorial integrity and the final status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, particularly in the light of Russia’s recognition of their independence.

An issue is whether the question of “obligatory abstention” should be raised. This refers to a provision in the UN Charter regarding a requirement for a party to a dispute to abstain from voting. (Please see our 12 August Update Report for more details.)

Another issue is the type of international mechanism to be set up and how this will affect UNOMIG.

Council Dynamics
Most members want a consensual resolution but Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia’s and Abkhazia’s independence has made this unlikely. The US and the European members of the Council object to the Russian draft as it does not include references to Georgia’s territorial integrity. They have also called for further clarification of the six principles. Russia is clearly against mentioning territorial integrity and it appears to be supported by South Africa and Libya. Indonesia has shown sympathy for the Russian draft but is also interested in further clarifications. Vietnam, China, the Latin American countries and Burkina Faso have not openly taken sides.

UN Documents

Selected Security Council Resolutions

  • S/2008/570 (21 August 2008) was the draft resolution circulated by Russia.
  • S/RES/1808 (15 April 2008) extended UNOMIG until 15 October 2008.

Selected Letters to the President of the Security Council

  • S/2008/561 (19 August 2008) was the letter from France requesting a meeting of the Council on 19 August.
  • S/2008/562 (16 August 2008) was the letter from Georgia on events occurring during the conflict.
  • S/2008/557 (15 August 2008) contained the appeal of the parliament of Georgia to the international community.
  • S/2008/545 (11 August 2008) was a letter from Russia stating its position on the conflict.
  • S/2008/543 (9 August 2008) were the statements by the Georgian Foreign Ministry.

Selected Council Meeting Records

  • S/PV.5961 (19 August 2008) was the meeting on 19 August.
  • S/PV.5953 (10 August 2008) was the meeting on 10 August.
  • S/PV.5952 (8 August 2008) was the record of the meeting in the afternoon of 8 August.
  • S/PV.5951 (8 August 2008) was the record of the meeting in the early hours of 8 August.

Other

  • Letter from President Sarkozy to President Saakashvili (16 August 2008)

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