Saturday, August 30, 2008

Latest UN Security Council Meeting on Georgia

Georgia exposes UN's weakness
Deadlocked over Georgia, ineffective on Darfur and impotent about Zimbabwe, the BBC's United Nations correspondent Laura Trevelyan asks, what is the point of the UN Security Council?

In the dog days of late August as Manhattan swelters, I have spent much of my time lurking by what is called the "UN Security Council stakeout".

It is the corridor where diplomats come to talk to journalists on their way in and out of security council meetings.

On the TV the stakeout radiates significance, but in reality it is rather faded.

Behind the diplomats hangs an enormous tapestry of Guernica, a reproduction of Picasso's famous anti-war painting, and a reminder of what the security council is supposed to try to prevent.

Georgia crisis

The stakeout has been unusually busy this August. Russia's eloquent Ambassador Vitaly Churkin has been a regular, denouncing what he calls "propaganda from Georgia".

Tibilisi's young telegenic envoy Irakli Alasania is as media savvy as Georgia's president, but his efforts with words have been no match for Russian firepower on the ground.

The sparks have been flying between Ambassador Churkin and his US counterpart Zalmay Khalilzad, reflecting the profound disagreement between Moscow and Washington. European ambassadors have tried to act as a bridge between the two.

United Kingdom
United States

Diplomats have spent many long hours consulting, trying to agree a resolution which would endorse the ceasefire plan brokered by France.

The security guards have gone into overtime, the stakeout carpet has become even more worn and smoke has filled the air (you can light up in bits of the UN as it is international territory).

I have even tried to count the threads in the Guernica tapestry, but the council has been unable to agree even the mildest statement on the Georgian situation.

Much diplomatic effort was expended in an effort to agree language on the territorial integrity of Georgia. Russia said the world could forget about it but the US and European countries insisted it should be respected.

The diplomacy finally juddered to a halt earlier this week when Russia recognised the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, rendering further arguments about territorial integrity futile.

With Russia being both a party to the conflict in Georgia and a veto-wielding power, the result this summer was paralysis at the council

But there is another reason why the council was deadlocked. Russia, like the US, Britain, France and China, is an all-powerful permanent member of the UN Security Council with the ability to block decisions.

That is the way the council was set up in the wake of WWII, with power going to the victors.

After the failings of the League of Nations, the idea was to give the UN Security Council teeth by enabling the five major powers to veto resolutions.

But with Russia being both a party to the conflict in Georgia and a veto wielding power, the result this summer was paralysis at the council.

Veto impasse

It is hardly the first time this has happened.

During what some are now calling the first Cold War, the Security Council was deadlocked because Russia and the US could both use their veto power.

But given the regularity with which the council reaches an impasse now, the obvious question is whether it is really working in the way it should.

The council is charged with maintaining international peace and security, a grand ambition, but if it cannot pronounce on Georgia, what use is it?

In July, China and Russia vetoed an attempt by the West to impose sanctions against members of Zimbabwe's government.

The peacekeeping force the Council despatched to Darfur is struggling, weakened because divisions between China and the West meant the Sudanese government was given a role in the force's composition, one it has exploited to the full.

Legitimacy doubts

You could say that the world is not united, so why expect the Council to be?

As China and Russia become more assertive, of course they will use the veto power as a tool of their foreign policy, just as Britain and France use their permanent member status to punch above their weight.

And it is not as if China and Russia are the only ones to use the veto.

The US uses the veto to protect its staunch ally Israel from what Washington sees as unbalanced criticism from the Arab world.

Security Council diplomats argue that the Georgia stand-off shows how important the forum is. If it was irrelevant, then no-one would bother trying to get agreement, say diplomats.

The failure is actually a reflection of the Council's power.

Meanwhile developing countries outside the Security Council question the legitimacy of a body set up to reflect the global power structure 60 years ago.

Divided world

India, Brazil, Japan, South Africa and Nigeria all have a strong case to be permanent members, and for 14 years, what are called in the jargon "open-ended discussions", have been going on over reforming the Security Council so it reflects the world as it is now.

Unsurprisingly those discussions have never concluded because many countries prefer the status quo to change, which would elevate their regional enemies.

Existing powers on the Security Council argue that enlargement is not without its perils. If too many countries have the veto, nothing would ever get done, they argue... self-servingly but also accurately.

Meanwhile I am still here at the stakeout, asking what the point of the UN Security Council is.

My conclusion is that it holds up a mirror to the world's divisions.

But if it does not start to reflect the schisms of the new world too, it will become as threadbare as the stakeout carpet.

Story from BBC NEWS:


Anonymous said...

The latest UN security council was about this: see the article on (below)

UN Security Council at odds over Georgia conflict 2008-08-29 08:10:18 Print

UNITED NATIONS, Aug. 28 (Xinhua) -- The UN Security Council remained deadlocked over the conflict in Georgia on Thursday afternoon after concluding its sixth emergency session on the subject since early August.

The open meeting, held at the request of Georgia, began with briefings from UN officials on the latest developments in Georgia, where the breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have gained recognition from Russia.

In his remarks to the council, Georgia's UN Ambassador Irakli Alasania said that Russia's decision to recognize the two regions was "in breach of fundamental norms and principles of international law on the sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of the state frontiers."

The Russian move "directly contradicts all resolutions on Georgia adopted by the Security Council," he said.

Alasania also accused Russia of disregarding the six-point plan agreed by both French and Russian presidents, in particular by failing to withdraw its forces and predetermining for itself the outcome of international talks on the two Georgian enclaves.

"We are complying with the cease-fire agreement and fully commit ourselves to it," the Georgian envoy said. "We demand the same action from the other parties in the conflict."

Russia's UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin read out to the council the two presidential decrees signed Tuesday by President Dmitry Medvedev on the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Russia envoy reiterated Moscow's "continuing respect" to the six principles contained in the cease-fire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and urged the council to formally endorse them by passing a resolution.

Last week, Russia formally presented to the council its draft resolution which simply reaffirmed the contents of six-point cease-fire agreement.

Churkin also urged the council to approve a request by Abkhazia and South Ossetia to send their representatives to New York to address the council.

"Today's meeting of the Security Council cannot be fully valid without the participation of the representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Churkin said. "Without an understanding of the aspirations of the peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it is impossible to have an objective picture of what is taking place."

"We are convinced that the day will soon come when the members of the Security Council will be able to hear their positions," he said.

Speaking to reporters after the meeting, U.S. Deputy Ambassador Alejandro Wolff said that a process for the parties to talk with others "has been totally leapfrogged and hijacked by this unilateral declaration of independence and immediate recognition ..."

"We see no basis for inviting either the Abkhaz or South Ossetian representatives and rewarding them after this illegal act," Wolff said.

Belgium's UN Ambassador Jan Grauls, the council's president for this month, said there was "no unanimous support" in the council concerning their participation.

"The council will continue to discuss the participation of South Ossetia and Abkhazia and will intensify these discussions in view of their participation at a more opportune moment and under a formula to be decided," Grauls said.

Editor: Sun Yunlong

PeterS said...

Theyjust continue the "fight of words"

The Minister of Foreing Affairs of Georgia has asked for the UN Security Council to be held on Thursday in order to decide on actions against Russia, alleging it had breached international security by its action in her country. At a special meeting of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, both Georgian Foreign Minister Ekaterine Tkeshelashvili and Russian representative Anvar Azimov traded allegations of ethnic cleansing in Georgia's breakaway province of South Ossetia.

Tkeshelashvili said the Security Council should act under Chapter 7 of the UN charter, which deals with non-military and military sanctions to restore peace and security.

"It is not only a threat to international security, but a breach of it," Tkeshelashvili said, referring to Russia's military involvement in Georgia and its recognition of Georgia's separatist provinces South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

The minister also claimed Russian forces had conducted ethnic cleansing in South Ossetia.

"The territory previously known in Soviet times as South Ossetia is completely cleansed of remnants of the Georgian population," she said. In the buffer zone around the breakaway province, ethnic cleansing was ongoing, she added.

Russian forces had acted together with ethnic Ossetian, Cossack, and Chechen militias in killing young men, raping and driving away women, as well as destroying villages and fields, Tkeshelashvili said.

Russian representative Azimov told reporters after the meeting that there was "no evidence of ethnic cleansing" of Georgians in South Ossetia, while accusing the other side of having committed such crimes.

Stressing the process of independence for the two Georgian regions was "irreversible", Azimov said it was now up to South Ossetian authorities to deal with such allegations.

Asked when Russian forces would leave areas around South Ossetia, Azimov said that "sooner or later we will leave these territories."

In its meeting, the Permanent Council of the OSCE, the organization's decision-making body, did not formally discuss the outstanding modalities of sending up to 100 additional observers to Georgia, a diplomat said.

By Thursday evening, the Vienna-based organization will increase the number of monitoring officers to 22, a spokesman said.

The 56 OSCE members still have to agree on where in Georgia the officers will be deployed for observing the ceasefire between Russian and Georgian forces, as Moscow has so far refused to allow them in South Ossetia.

It was up to South Ossetia whether to allow in OSCE monitors, the Russian representative said, adding that according to the Russian military, "for security reasons it is not the time" to do so.

Georgia's foreign minister reiterated Tbilisi's position that any geographic limitation for monitors "cannot be tolerated."

Greg said...

And now all the diplomatic relations between Georgia and Russia have been cut, the Russians to get Georgian visas only in third-party countries
From September 8 only diplomatic representations and consulates in third-party countries will issue Georgian visas to Russian citizens, Georgia announced on Saturday. The Director of the Russian Department in the Georgian Foreign Ministry has already served a corresponding note to a Russian Embassy official.

Russian citizens will be able to get detailed information on the issue in Georgia’s diplomatic representations and consulates in third-party countries, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.

Until today Russian citizens, arriving in Georgia, could get single-entry tourist visas at the county’s official border control points, such as the one at Tbilisi airport.

The move follows Tbilisi’s decision to break off all diplomatic ties with Moscow.

Also, only the Georgian consulate service will continue to operate in Russia, and Georgia will be diplomatically represented in Russia by the embassy of a third country, according to the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze. The consulate service in Russia will not, however, issue visas.

Earlier this week Tbilisi recalled most of its embassy staff from Moscow.

Georgian Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze has also signed an order for Georgia to withdraw from the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and all peacekeeping agreements with Russia.

Georgian Foreign Minister Ekaterina Tkheshelashvili has been instructed to send notes to the CIS executive committee and the Russian Foreign Ministry, as well as to the UN, OSCE and other international organisations, explaining the move.

On Thursday the Georgian parliament unanimously supported a request to the government to cut ties with Russia over what was described as its ‘occupation of Georgian territory’.

Lerjey said...

It's difficult to believe that the small (of course, I mean relatively small) conflict has ignited the global debates and old verbal and diplomatic clashes between "East" and "West". The Great Game is back from where it has been sleeping. But this time the Russian Empire is stronger and more visible, and the West is crippling with its economic and financial problems, Iraq and global terrorism, and transforming expensive food into more expensive fuel.

Who will win this Game, nobody knows, but this will hurt more and more people for sure.

The solution is simple, respect each culture and traditions and try to come to compromises. But, some politicians consider themselves Gods, who create and transform this world. Change is coming soon.

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