UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia’s decision to recognize the independence of two Georgian rebel regions on Tuesday has undermined the ability of the U.N. Security Council to resolve the crisis in the Caucasus, Western envoys said.
Russia announced it was recognizing the breakaway enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Tbilisi’s desire to seize one of the rebel zones by force earlier this month had killed all hopes for their peaceful co-existence in one state with Georgia.
Western envoys on the U.N. Security Council have been struggling to overcome a deadlock on a draft resolution that would open the way to an international peacekeeping mission for Georgia and to peace talks between the two former Soviet states, which fought a brief war earlier this month.
The envoys suggested that Russia’s decision on Tuesday might prevent the 15-nation council from ever reaching consensus on the issue of Georgia.
“We were making progress, but frankly territorial integrity (of Georgia) was an essential part of that and Russia’s actions today have put a massive block in the way of achieving a common Security Council position,” British Ambassador John Sawers told reporters ahead of a council session on unrelated issues.
French Deputy Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix echoed Sawers’ comments, saying Russia’s decision had “dramatically changed” the discussions taking place at the Security Council.
“This is obviously a very far-reaching decision and one that will have wide-ranging implications ... even beyond the Georgian situation,” he said.
Earlier U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he worried that Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia might complicate the council’s efforts to solve the crisis and could have an impact on “security and stability in the Caucasus.”
The main reason for the council’s deadlock on the Georgia draft has been that Russia — like the United States, Britain, France and China — has veto powers and opposes the inclusion of language reaffirming Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Both Sawers and Lacroix said Russia’s move contradicted the six-point cease-fire proposal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, which called for talks on the status of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
They also echoed comments from U.S. President George W. Bush that Moscow had backed previous council resolutions on Georgia that reaffirmed its territorial integrity after the rebel enclaves broke away from Tbilisi in the early 1990s.
“In the space of three weeks Russia has gone from reaffirming Georgia’s territorial integrity to using military force to redraw the boundaries of Georgia,” Sawers said.
Meanwhile, Georgia’s U.N. Ambassador Irakli Alasania ruled out any official discussions between Moscow and Tbilisi.
“At this point I can exclude this kind of talks with Russia (while) the occupation of Georgia is still ongoing,” he said.
The crisis erupted after Georgia sent its military on August 7-8 to try to recapture South Ossetia. Russia responded with overwhelming force, sending troops and tanks far into Georgia.
Relations between Russia and Georgia have worsened sharply in recent years over a Georgian drive to join NATO.
Additional reporting by Patrick Worsnip; Editing by Cynthia Osterman