Georgian protestors hold a peaceful vigil outside the Russian Embassy
EU ambassadors have given a cautious welcome to the French brokered truce between Georgia and Russia, bringing to a halt the five-day armed conflict over the breakaway region of South Ossetia, but lessons should be learned in resolving the former Soviet Union’s ‘frozen conflicts’ peacefully.
French Ambassador Maurice Gourdault-Montagne was not available for comment and with the peace deal still very fragile, French embassy officials were reserving their comment.
Other ambassadors not directly involved in the talks were more forthcoming. One Ambassador said the war in South Ossetia proved that the ‘frozen conflicts’ of the former Soviet Union should be solved through peaceful negotiations.
He went on to say that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili had made a serious error of judgement in his reckless attempt to retake separatist South Ossetia by force, noting that the Georgian president’s brinkmanship had likely stemmed from an “over-confidence” that the West (including Nato) would position itself “more concretely” on Georgia’s side.
He added that Russia should desist from “playing games” with Georgia, a sovereign state, by inciting the separatists of Tshinvali.
Another diplomat said “swift and disproportionate” reprisals by Russia to protect its citizens were a chance for President Medvedev to “flex his muscles”.
Ambassadors also suspect that Russia used the conflict to “test the waters” to see how far the West would be prepared to go to assist plucky smaller nations such as Georgia and risk jeopardising its important strategic relations with Russia. The defiant solidarity shown by the Presidents of Poland and Ukraine and the Prime Ministers of Lithuania and Latvia (the latter three having significant Russian minorities of their own) was a sign of how exposed some countries feel in this volatile region.
Some EU countries have called for European peacekeepers to monitor Georgia’s two rebel regions, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but there was no sign Russia would accept such a move.
At the time of going to press, Russian troops are pulling back from Georgia.