Russia circulates own draft U.N. resolution
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia circulated its own draft U.N. resolution aimed at bringing peace to Georgia to the Security Council on Wednesday, a day after blocking a rival Western draft that demanded an immediate Russian withdrawal.
The Russian text simply restated and endorsed a six-point peace plan promoted by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and signed last week by Russia and Georgia.
Western diplomats say they are in favor of that plan but are reluctant to set it in stone through a Security Council resolution when they say Russia is ignoring its provisions by failing to make significant military withdrawals.
U.S. Deputy U.N. Ambassador Alejandro Wolff made clear Washington's opposition to the Russian draft, describing it to journalists as "intended to rubber-stamp a Russian interpretation (of the plan) that we do not agree with."
The crisis in the Caucasus erupted after Georgia sent its military on August 7-8 to try to recapture the Moscow-backed breakaway enclave of South Ossetia and Russia responded with overwhelming force, sending troops and tanks far into Georgia.
Relations between the two ex-Soviet states have worsened sharply in recent years over a Georgian drive to join NATO.
The 15-nation Security Council is now faced with two conflicting drafts, both with little immediate chance of success since each is opposed by at least one veto-holding member. The United States, Russia, Britain, France and China have vetoes in the council.
The Russian draft says the Security Council endorses the six-point plan, which it then details. In conclusion it "calls upon the parties concerned to implement the above-mentioned plan in good faith."
Tuesday's draft, written by France and backed by other Western members, had called for an immediate Russian withdrawal to pre-conflict lines, the return of Georgian forces to their bases and full compliance with an already agreed cease-fire.
Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said on Tuesday Russia could not support the French draft and there has been no vote on it. On Wednesday he called the text an "inexplicable effort to make the Security Council step sideways."
He said he hoped for positive reaction to the Russian draft by other council members.
"No one can object to the Security Council endorsing the six principles of the Russian and French presidents, which form the foundation of all current efforts to normalize the situation," he told reporters.
France originally had been negotiating with Russia a resolution similar to the one now drafted by Moscow but shelved it amid Western concerns that Russia was not making good on promises to pull back its troops in Georgia.
Also at issue was an unexplained reference in the six-point plan, inserted at Russian insistence, to "additional security measures" to be taken by Russian forces.
Western diplomats said the French draft had been submitted to the council in full knowledge that Russia was likely to reject it. The aim was "to put the spotlight on the fact that the Russians have not withdrawn," one Western envoy said.
French Deputy Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix told reporters the French draft remained on the table. He said Paris still wanted the ultimate implementation of the six-point plan, but this depended on Russian withdrawal.
"We will assess the situation on the ground and whether there are concrete and credible signs of withdrawal in the days ahead. We will see based on this," he told journalists.
White House spokesman Gordon Johndroe said on Wednesday that the United States saw "the early signs of some withdrawal" but that this was "not significant and it needs to increase."
(Editing by Xavier Briand)
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