The United States, Britain, France and Germany issued a joint statement after the UN Security Council meeting on April 23 saying they were “highly concerned” over Russia’s move to establish legal links with Georgia’s breakaway regions.
“We call on the Russian Federation to revoke or not to implement its decision,” the statement by four western powers said. The four countries, along with Russia, are part of UN Secretary General’s Group of Friend of Georgia, dealing with the Abkhaz conflict.
Russian ambassador to UN, Vitaly Churkin, however, told journalists: “This is of course a tall order and I think that they [four western powers] themselves understand that this is not something which is going to happen. This is not kind of saying which we would expect from our international partners.”
He reiterated the Russian position that Moscow's moves to boost its ties with breakaway regions only aimed at improving social conditions of residents – many of them Russian passport holders - of those regions.
He also denied the Georgian Foreign Minister Davit Bakradze’s allegation that Russia’s move amounted to “creeping annexation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Clearly this is not a diplomatic recognition or international recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It does not involve enhanced military cooperation between Russia and those regions,” Churkin said.
Churkin was speaking after the UN Security Council meeting, which was held upon Georgia’s request. The Russian diplomat said that the UN Security Council meeting was “very good” and “useful,” but regretted that the Abkhaz side was not invited to express its position.
The Security Council meeting, which was also attended by the Georgian Foreign Minister, Davit Bakradze, discussed two issues: Russia’s decision to establish official ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and downing of Georgian unmanned reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia by, as Tbilisi claims, Russia’s MIG-29 fighter jet.
Although the joint statement by the four western powers took no view on the drone incident, the U.S. Department of State said in its individual statement on April 23 that it was “deeply concerned by the shooting down of an unarmed Georgian UAV, by a presumably Russian MiG-29.”
Georgia has issued a video footage transmitted from the reconnaissance drone just before it was shot down, showing a twin-tail jet approaching the drone and firing missile. Georgia said twin-tail marking was that of MIG-29. Neither Georgia, nor the Abkhaz side possess MIG-29, the Georgian officials say.
When asked about that video footage, Churkin said: “It is just a video. As you know the Abkhaz air defense says that they have shot it down and our air force says that our planes were not flying in the area.”
Speaking after the Council meeting the Georgian Foreign Minister said that Tbilisi was grateful for the joint appeal to Russia made by the four countries. He said that this support was “the best safeguard to avoid any complications or any future infringements of Georgian sovereignty.”
Speaking about the drone incident Bakradze said: “Unfortunately we have not got response today from distinguished ambassador of the Russian Federation [Vitaly Churkin] why and how Russian MIG-29 appeared in the Georgian airspace.”
He also said that all the recent moves by Russia in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia “substantially damage Russia’s role as a neutral mediator” in the peace process.
“There is an ongoing in-depth peace process review process taking place in UN and we hope that within the nearest future we will have recommendations and conclusions from UN how this operation should be,” Bakradze said.