UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – The U.N. Security Council failed on Friday to reach an agreement on a Russian-drafted statement that would have called on Georgia and separatists in its South Ossetia region to immediately halt all bloodshed.
The 15 Security Council members began meeting late on Thursday and remained behind closed doors for two hours until early Friday morning to discuss the three-sentence statement.
But council diplomats said one phrase in it was unacceptable to the Georgians, backed by the United States and Europeans. That wording called on all sides in the conflict “to renounce the use of force,” according to a draft of the text.
After failing to agree, the council decided not to take any action on the issue, the diplomats said.
Russian Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who had asked for the 11 p.m. EDT meeting to be held, did not hide his disappointment at the council’s inability to agree.
He said it “unfortunately represents the absence of any political will amongst the members of the Security Council.”
Georgian troops, backed by warplanes, pounded separatist forces near the South Ossetian capital on Friday hours after launching an assault on the breakaway region following a short-lived truce.
The crisis fueled fears of full-blown war in the region, which is emerging as a vital energy transit route and where Russia and the West are vying for influence.
Russia backs the separatists who have controlled the region since a war in the early 1990s.
Churkin also chided the council for failing to heed his earlier warnings that the situation in South Ossetia was about to escalate.
U.S. URGES RUSSIAN RESTRAINT
U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo called for an end to hostilities and urged respect for Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty. She condemned the separatists’ refusal to attend a Thursday meeting with Georgian officials.
DiCarlo also had some suggestions for Moscow.
“We also call on Russia to pull its troops back and not inflame the situation by sending its forces to Georgia,” she said. “Russia must cease the transport of troops and equipment … from Russia into South Ossetia.”
Churkin expressed surprise that the U.S. envoy had condemned the separatists but not Georgia.
Georgian Ambassador Irakli Alasania reiterated Tbilisi’s position to the council, accusing the separatists of starting the crisis and describing his country’s reaction as restrained.
Speaking to reporters later, he said the separatists seemed to want to “ethnically cleanse” Georgians from the region.
“Georgia as a responsible state has the responsibility to protect our peaceful population,” Alasania said.
He called on the separatists to halt attacks and said Moscow was interfering in South Ossetia in support of the separatists. He said that Russian officials, military personnel and security agents were active in the region.
French, British and other Western envoys also called for all sides to stop fighting and resume negotiations. French Deputy Ambassador Jean-Pierre Lacroix told reporters the council would probably come back to the issue.