Russia threatens to veto West's U.N. Georgia plan
Russia's dispute with Western powers over its neighbor Georgia came to a head on Monday as Moscow threatened to veto a Western plan to extend the mandate of a U.N. mission in the former Soviet republic, Reuters reported.
The council is scheduled to vote later on Monday on a U.S.- and European-sponsored draft resolution that would extend for two weeks the mandate of a U.N. mission to the Georgian breakaway zone Abkhazia, which declared independence last year after Russia's brief war with Georgia.
The U.N. mission in Georgia, known as UNOMIG, was set up in 1993 after Abkhazia overthrew Tbilisi's rule to verify compliance of a ceasefire between Georgia and Abkhaz forces. If its mandate is not extended, the entire mission will cease to exist, Russian U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters.
The two-week extension would give Russia and the Western members of the 15-nation council time to try to agree on a long-term plan for the U.N. mission.
"In our traditional frankness, I indicated to them that Russia will vote no on this draft," Churkin said after a closed-door council meeting. "If there is to be a vote, there is going to be a vote, but that resolution which has been proposed by our Western partners is not going to be adopted tonight by the Security Council."
Russia rejects the draft resolution, Churkin said, because it refers to council resolution 1808 from April 2008, which reaffirms Georgia's "territorial integrity." He described the reference as "political poison."
Any mention of resolution 1808 was unacceptable, Churkin said, because it was adopted four months prior to what he described as the "Georgian aggression" against South Ossetia, the Georgian breakaway province at the center of the August 2008 Russian-Georgian war.
Churkin said he proposed extending the mission's mandate until July 15 to allow more time for negotiations, "provided there are no offensive references in that resolution."
Western Council members rejected that idea, he said.
Without a renewed mandate, the U.N. mission "will pass away peacefully." Churkin said. The mission's mandate expires at midnight New York time. (0400 GMT, Tuesday.)
Western diplomats said the decision to push for a brief mandate extension came after months of negotiations between Russia, the United States, Germany, France and Britain on a long-term plan for the mission failed to produce an agreement.
The Security Council is tentatively scheduled to reconvene for closed-door consultations at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT).
The U.N. mandate in Georgia became politicized after Russia invaded Georgia last August. The Kremlin recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states after the war, a step that was condemned by Europe and the United States.
The only other country that has recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is Nicaragua.