September 9, 2008 / 8:01 PM / 10 years ago

Russia wants arms embargo on Georgia, U.S. sees ploy

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Russia’s U.N. envoy asked the Security Council on Tuesday to impose an arms embargo on Georgia, which Russia invaded last month to stop Tbilisi from retaking a Kremlin-backed separatist enclave.

Russian Ambassador to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin speaks to the media after a meeting of the U.N. Security Council to discuss the conflict between Russian and Georgia at United Nations headquarters in New York August 11, 2008. REUTERS/Keith Bedford

Washington quickly dismissed the Russian draft resolution as a ploy to divert attention from the fact Moscow had yet to pull out of Georgian territory outside two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, as promised in a French-brokered cease-fire agreement signed last month.

Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin submitted the draft resolution to the U.N. Security Council. The text calls for countries to implement measures that would ban the sale of all “arms or military equipment” to Georgia, as well as any military “assistance, consultations or training.”

Speaking to reporters after a meeting of the council, Churkin acknowledged that that the United States, which helped modernize Georgia’s military and backs Tbilisi’s aspirations to join the NATO military alliance, might put up strong resistance to the resolution.

“But we believe that it was absolutely necessary to make this political statement by introducing this draft,” he said.

Carolyn Vadino, a spokeswoman for the U.S. mission to the United Nations, said the resolution was “just an attempt by Russia to divert attention from its real obligation” — to withdraw from parts of the country outside the rebel areas.

Moscow’s intervention in Georgia last month, in which its forces crushed an attempt by Tbilisi to re-establish control over South Ossetia, drew international condemnation and prompted concern over the security of energy supplies.

Russia agreed on Monday to withdraw its soldiers from areas outside South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Moscow has recognized as independent states, within a month.

It was not immediately clear if the council would vote on the Russian draft resolution, or if it would be shelved, as happened with several other Russian drafts on Georgia.

REARMING GEORGIA?

Western diplomats said the U.S. and European Union delegations on the council were against any kind of arms embargo against Georgia, which they see as a victim of Russian aggression and plans to expand Russia’s borders.

Vadino also called on Moscow to “to allow civilian and humanitarian access to all parts of Georgia.” A U.N. spokeswoman said on Monday that a U.N. food aid convoy was not allowed to pass through a checkpoint near the city of Gori, which was hard hit by the war.

Churkin said he had no information about the incident, but he criticized countries he said were planning to rearm Tbilisi, suggesting they were irresponsible.

“We believe that some countries are taking active efforts in order to start rearming Georgia and are already allocating large sums of money for that,” he said.

Tbilisi had not “drawn proper conclusions” from last month’s war, he said, nor had its principal suppliers.

“They have not really criticized in any way, let alone condemned, the Georgian leadership for having carried out this aggression against South Ossetia and their mind-set continues to be very much along the military lines,” Churkin said.

The Russian envoy said he would invite representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to an informal council meeting in October on renewing the mandate of U.N. observers in Abkhazia.

It was not clear if Washington or the European council members would back the idea. Apart from Russia, only Nicaragua has recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Editing by Peter Cooney

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