August 11, 2008
A Russian soldier injured in fighting with Georgian troops gets medical assistance in the town Dzhava, South Ossetia. US President George W. Bush led western calls Saturday for Russia to end its military onslaught against Georgia and Poland demanded an emergency European Union summit to discuss the conflict over South Ossetia.
US President George W. Bush led western calls Saturday for Russia to end its military onslaught against Georgia and Poland demanded an emergency European Union summit to discuss the conflict over South Ossetia.
Sweden’s foreign minister compared Russian policy to that of Adolf Hitler and Slobodan Milosevic.
“We have urged an immediate halt to the violence and a stand-down by all troops,” US President George W. Bush said in Beijing. “We call for an end to the Russian bombings and a return by the parties to the status quo of August 6th.”
As the fighting escalated, Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski said he had asked the French EU presidency “to urgently convene a meeting of the European Council at the level of heads of government,” the PAP news agency reported.
“The territorial integrity of Georgia is currently being violated on an enormous scale,” Sikorski added. “There are bombardments, civilians are dying, foreign military forces are on Georgian territory.”
In Stockholm, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said EU foreign ministers could gather Monday in Paris, ahead of a possible summit in Brussels later in the week.
Bildt evoked memories of the German and Serbian wartime leaders in his condemnation of Russia, saying the protection of Russian nationals on Georgian soil did not justify the assault.
“Attempts to apply such a doctrine have plunged Europe into war in the past… And we have reason to remember how Hitler used this very doctrine little more than half a century ago to undermine and attack substantial parts of central Europe,” Bildt said.
“We did not accept military intervention by Milosevic’s Serbia in other Yugoslav states on the grounds of protecting Serbian passport holders,” he added.
Poland backs pro-western Georgia’s efforts to join the EU and NATO and was supported by fellow ex-Soviet bloc members Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in urging the EU and NATO to oppose Russia’s “imperialist” policy, a statement said.
“The EU and NATO must take the initiative and stand up against the spread of imperialist and revisionist policy in the east of Europe,” leaders of the four countries said in a joint statement.
“The Russian Federation has overstepped a red-line in keeping the peace and stability in the conflict zone and in protecting Russian citizens outside its own borders,” the statement added.
NATO has repeated calls for talks between Georgia and the separatist Russian-backed South Ossetian leadership but insisted that these “can only be based on Georgia’s territorial integrity,” a NATO spokeswoman told AFP.
Alongside another former Soviet republic, Ukraine, Georgia was prevented from obtaining NATO candidate status at an alliance summit this year.
A joint mission of diplomats from the EU, the US and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europey was due in Georgia late Saturday.
The UN Security Council was also to meet again Saturday, while EU foreign policy chief Solana was to speak with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and Ukrainian president Viktor Yushchenko.
Iran, which is close to the conflict zone, said it was “ready to offer any help,” according to foreign ministry spokesman Hassan Ghashghavi. “A worsening of the crisis could affect the whole region with its negative consequences.
But German’s deputy foreign minister, Gernot Erler, said Georgia had breached a 1992 South Ossetia ceasefire agreement, monitored essentially by Russian peacekeepers.
“In this sense, it is also a question of a violation of international law as soon as you start to go down the road of military action,” Erler told German radio station NDR Info.
Erler acknowledged provocation by separatists, but said he understood Russia’s reaction given the economic support it has long given the region.