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Russia blames OSCE for not preventing Georgia war
Fri Feb 27, 2009 3:00pm EST
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By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia's U.N. ambassador accused the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) on Friday of not doing enough to prevent last year's war in Georgia which resulted in a full-scale Russian invasion.
"Unfortunately within the context of the August events ... the OSCE clearly did not fulfill its role, was not up to its responsibility as an important instrument to ensure security in the Euro-Atlantic area," Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told the U.N. Security Council.
"The OSCE was not able either to prevent the Georgian attack on southern Ossetia nor to appropriately assess the actions of the Saakashvili regime," Churkin said, referring to Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.
Russia invaded Georgia in August 2008 to thwart an attempt by Tbilisi to re-establish control over the pro-Russian breakaway region of South Ossetia, which has since declared independence along with another breakaway enclave, Abkhazia.
He said military monitors from the OSCE, a Vienna-based security and human rights watchdog, in South Ossetia had information about Georgian plans to attack South Ossetia but did not share it with OSCE members or its key bodies.
Instead, OSCE members learned how much the monitors knew after the information was provided to Western media.
Last year the New York Times published an article that cited unnamed sources familiar with the observations of monitors working for the OSCE, a 56-nation body, that called into doubt Tbilisi's assertions that its August 7 attack on the South Ossetian capital was defensive.
Instead, the November 7 article said "the accounts suggest that Georgia's inexperienced military attacked the isolated separatist capital of Tskhinvali on August 7 with indiscriminate artillery and rocket fire, exposing civilians, Russian peacekeepers and unarmed monitors to harm."
Georgia denied the allegations in the article.
COLD WAR ECHOES
Speaking to reporters after Friday's council session, Churkin said that if the OSCE monitors' observations had been made available to the Security Council promptly, it might have been able to take action to prevent a full-scale war.
Instead, the council was deadlocked at the time as the United States and Russia hurled insults at each other during heated debates reminiscent of the Cold War years.
The Americans accused Moscow at the time of trying to topple Georgia's government while Russia suggested that Washington was colluding with Tbilisi prior to the war.
Greece's Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, who is currently chairing the OSCE, declined to comment on Churkin's criticisms of the OSCE when she spoke to reporters after the meeting.
The Security Council recently extended for four months the mandate for the U.N. observer mission in Abkhazia. Bakoyannis said that the OSCE's observer mission for South Ossetia was technically closed but its staff remained on the ground. Continued...
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