DUSHANBE (Reuters) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev failed to win crucial support from his Asian allies on Thursday in Moscow’s confrontation with the West over war in Georgia.
The West supported its ally Georgia when Russia sent in troops this month to crush Tbilisi’s attempt to retake the Moscow-backed separatist region of South Ossetia.
Moscow appeared diplomatically isolated when it recognized the independence of South Ossetia and another Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia on Tuesday.
Medvedev suffered a new diplomatic setback when leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO), who gathered for a summit in the Tajik capital Dushanbe, failed to explicitly back his Caucasus policy.
“The SCO states express grave concern in connection with the recent tensions around the South Ossetian issue and urge the sides to solve existing problems peacefully, through dialogue, and to make efforts facilitating reconciliation and talks,” the summit’s final declaration said.
But the leaders of China, Russia and four ex-Soviet states Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan backed a six-point ceasefire deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and acknowledged Russia’s role in the Caucasus.
“The SCO states welcome the adoption in Moscow on August 12 of six principles of settling the conflict in South Ossetia and support Russia’s active role in contributing to peace and cooperation in the region,” it said.
Moscow has advertised the SCO as a guarantor of regional security in Central Asia, whose rich energy and mineral resources are also wanted by the West. But Medvedev denied the block could ever grow into a NATO antagonist.
“The SCO has never adopted the role of a counter-weight to NATO,” he told reporters in Dushanbe.
In the past, the SCO has backed Moscow in its diplomatic clashes with the West, including over U.S. plans to deploy elements of its missile defence in Europe.
Its support for Russia in the Georgian crisis would have been important for Medvedev both in terms of breaking Moscow’s international isolation and asserting stronger Russian control over the grouping, where China plays a growing role.
Just hours before the summit started, a Chinese foreign ministry statement said, “China expresses its concerns about the latest changes in South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
“We understand the complex history and realities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. At the same time, reflecting China’s consistent stance on such issues, we hope all the parties can appropriately resolve the issue through dialogue and consultation,” it said.
Analysts have predicted SCO states, reluctant to upset their own plans for ties with the West, would stand back. Some, like China, have problems with own separatists.
Medvedev made clear he was not upset by the SCO reaction saying his main point was to inform fellow leaders about the events in South Ossetia.
“We came to a conclusion that such events do not strengthen the world order, that it is necessary to fully adhere to the principles agreed by Russia and France,” he added. “I received from them such kind of support for our actions.”
Writing by Oleg Shchedrov; Editing by Jon Boyle