For the second time in less than 24 hours, the U.N. Security Council has been unable to agree on a course of action to stop the escalating violence in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia. From United Nation's headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more.
In an open meeting, there was consensus among the 15-members that there should be a cessation of hostilities, but when it came to crafting a statement on the subject there was difficulty in finding agreement on the right words.
|UN Security Council |
Belguim's Ambassador Jan Grauls, who is council president this month, told reporters that some members need more time. "This negotiation is an on-going process -- it has not come to a halt tonight. And will be resumed tomorrow in the course of the morning," he said.
Some diplomats also cited the fluid situation on the ground. During the meeting, Georgia's Ambassador Irakli Alasania told the council that he had just received word that Russian bombers were attacking more targets in Georgia and another breakaway republic, Abkhazia. "Right now, as we speak, Russian bombers are bombing the Poti port, which is the western port of Georgia. As well as Senaki airfield, which was bombed numerous times today. And of course -- it was quite anticipated from my side -- that we should have some kind of provocation in Abkhazia as well. We are seeing the bombing of Kodori region of Upper Abkhazi," he said.
He said Georgian government buildings in Tblisi were being evacuated because they anticipate more attacks.
The heavy fighting erupted Thursday, when Georgia tried to reestablish control over parts of South Ossetia, which has been under separatist control since the early 1990s. Georgia says the move was to suppress gunfire and shelling coming from South Ossetian villages into Georgian towns.
An overnight meeting of the Security Council failed to find a way to stop the fighting, and Friday morning, Russian troops entered the disputed region saying they wanted to reinforce their peacekeepers and protect South Ossetian civilians -- many of whom hold Russian nationality.
Russia's Ambassador, Vitaly Churkin, said Moscow would not allow to go unpunished the deaths of their compatriots, and called Georgia's actions "ethnic cleansing." "How else can we call it when hospitals are being destroyed, schools, residential areas, when scores of thousands of refugees are leaving the republic?," he said.
U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad repeated Washington's call for an immediate cease-fire and the withdrawal of Russian forces from its ally's territory. "We call on Russia to cease attacks on Georgia by aircraft and missiles, respect Georgia's territorial integrity, and withdraw its ground combat forces from Georgian soil," he said.
Ambassador Churkin said Moscow does not object to a cease-fire, but that a serious political analysis of the situation is necessary and certain demands must be fulfilled, otherwise a more dangerous situation could result.