Asia Crisis

OSCE head: Russian mediator days over in S.Ossetia

HELSINKI, Aug 9 (Reuters) - Russia's armed intervention means it cannot return as an honest broker between the sides in the South Ossetia conflict, the head of Europe's main security and human rights group said on Saturday.

"Russia is at the moment a party in this conflict, not a mediator, and that has to be mirrored when ceasefire and peace talks begin," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, current chairman of the 56-nation Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, told a news conference.

"It is clear that there is no return to the status quo, to what was," Stubb said before heading to the region.

Russian troops poured into South Ossetia on Friday, hours after Georgia launched a large-scale offensive aimed at restoring control over the region which broke away after a war in the early 1990s.

A peacekeeping force with 500 members each from Russia, Georgia and North Ossetia monitored a truce in the region which broke down this week.

Stubb said he would travel to Georgia on Monday to meet President Mikheil Saakashvili and go on to Moscow on Monday or Tuesday to meet Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Expectations of a quick solution should be kept low, Stubb said. "On a scale of one to 10, we are at about two."

Stubb also said there was no question the current conflict was a war. "This is a war, no doubt about it. There is no reason to call it anything else."

He said Georgia's territorial integrity and the right to self-determination of South Ossetia were basic principles which would guide the OSCE throughout the conflict.

The OSCE monitors security in the region and has a mandate to promote talks between the parties to the conflict. (Reporting by Sakari Suoninen, editing by Tim Pearce)