Georgia Signs Ceasefire Deal

Georgia had to sign a six-point ceasefire agreement allowing Russian troops to continue “peacekeeping mission” in the South Ossetian conflict zone for unspecified period of time.

“Today I signed the ceasefire agreement; I have to specify this is a ceasefire agreement; this is not a final settlement,” President Saakashvili said at a news conference in Tbilisi after almost five hours of talks with U.S. Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Before moving on the deal itself Saakashvili, who looked very unhappy with the agreement he had to sign, spoke almost ten minutes in his opening remarks at the press conference about the events preceding the Russia’s invasion.

He lashed out at “most of the European countries” for their “muted and quiet” reaction to what he called was Russia’s preparation of Georgia’s invasion in recent months. He said those troops attacking Georgia were “barbarians of 21st century.” “All these could have been prevented; we were screaming, shouting to the world that Russia was going to do it,” he said.

“This is the ceasefire agreement between us and Russia, facilitated by France and the United States,” Saakashvili said when started to speak about the deal. “We should certainly move from this temporary arrangement to a genuinely international peacekeeping force on the ground to replace [Russian] occupiers.”

“This is not a done deal,” he added. “We need to do our utmost to deter such behavior in the future.”

Secretary Rice, who arrived in Tbilisi on August 15 after meeting with President Nikola Sarkozy in France, said that the signed ceasefire agreement “does not prejudice future arrangements.”

“With this signature of the Georgian President on this ceasefire accord all Russian troops and any irregular and paramilitary forces that entered with them must leave immediately,” she said.

She said that the document was signed after she had been able to offer to President Saakashvili “some clarification from President Sarkozy about the meaning of certain terms.”

Rice said that clarifications were made in respect of the fifth point of the document, which reads: “Russian military forces will have to withdraw to the lines held prior to the outbreak of hostilities. Pending an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces will implement additional security measures.”

She specified that according to the signed agreement the Russian forces, “except for the peacekeeping forces,” which were in the South Ossetian conflict zone prior to August 6, will leave the Georgian territory.

Pre-conflict status quo – or as it is now known, the August 6 status quo – saw the situation, wherein there were Joint Peacekeeping Forces (JPKF) in the South Ossetian conflict zone. JPKF involved three battalions – from Russia and Russia’s North Ossetia each and Georgian the third. Presence of the Georgian forces in the JPKF was a tool for Georgia to maintain its authorized forces on the ground and control the situation at least in the Georgian villages.

The return to August 6 status quo will hardly apply to JPKF. The Russian and South Ossetian sides are strongly against of any Georgian presence in the region. As a result the six-point plan reads: “Pending an international mechanism, Russian peacekeeping forces [and not JPKF] will implement additional security measures.”

But before it comes to “international mechanisms” sometime in the future, the agreement envisages, according to Rice, sending international monitors on the ground.

“In order to stabilize the situation in Georgia we need international observers on the scene fast and eventually we need more robust and impartial peacekeeping international force that would follow those monitors,” she said.

She said that the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, the Finnish Foreign Minster, Alexander Stubb, told her the international monitors could “come to Georgia in a matter of days.”

Stubb has already requested the OSCE-member states to increase the organization’s monitors on the ground in the South Ossetian conflict zone up by 100. In recent years OSCE had only eight unarmed military observers on the ground.

Consent of all 56 OSCE-member states, including of Russia, is required to take a decision on increasing of number of monitors.

“I count on Russian cooperation in getting those monitors in,” Rice said.

She pointed out that the United States would focus its attention to the reconstruction activities in the region, as soon security conditions are improved on the ground. 

She also said that the U.S. has started to work with Georgia and “also engaged G7, IMF and other international financial institution to rapidly develop economic support package to help Georgia resume its rapid economic growth.” “The package should restore the Georgia’s economy and reinforce investor confidence,” she added.

Rice said that she believed discussions should be launched on consequences what Russia had done.

“This calls into question what role Russia really intends to play in the international politics,” she said. “You can not on the one hand participate and be responsible member of the institutions that are democratic and underscore democratic values and on the other hand act on this way towards one of your neighbors.”

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