President Saakashvili said he had ordered Georgian forces to cease fire in South Ossetia and added that Tbilisi was ready to give Russia a role as guarantor of South Ossetia’s autonomy.
“A sniper war is ongoing against residents of villages [in the South Ossetian conflict zone] and as I speak now intense fire is ongoing from artillery, from tanks, from self-propelled artillery systems – which have been brought into the conflict zone illegally – and from other types of weaponry, including from mortars and grenade launchers,” Saakashvili said in a live televised address made at 7:10pm local time on August 7.
He said there were casualties, both dead and “many, many people are wounded.” He did not specify the numbers and officials from the Interior Ministry were also unable to give exact numbers on casualties.
“The Russian peacekeeping forces told us several hours ago that they have totally lost control over the separatist forces,” he said. “We are in constant contact with the Russian Foreign Ministry, but it has failed to convince the separatist to cease fire.”
“I want to acknowledge that several hours ago, I, as supreme commander, issued a very painful order not to return fire in response to very intense shelling [of Georgian villages],” he said.
Saakashvili said that he had ordered the cease-fire in order to engage the South Ossetian secessionists in talks.
He called for the immediate resumption of talks “in any type of format – whether it is bilateral, or multilateral – in order to overcome this impasse.”
Saakashvili reiterated that Tbilisi wanted to offer “unrestricted autonomy” for South Ossetia.
“And I am proposing that the Russian Federation act as guarantor of South Ossetian autonomy within Georgia,” Saakashvili said. It is the first time such a proposal has been publicly made.
“I offer a very important role to Russia in resolving this conflict,” he added. “Georgia is a natural ally for Russia… We need a real mediator.”
He said the proposal was designed to give Russia a role in the peace process and “to give the local population a sense that they are protected by the international community, by those people, who deserve their trust.”
Saakashvili also offered “a full amnesty to the separatists and those engaged in criminal activity if they immediately cease fire.”
“I am ready to undertake this step for peace; I am ready to pardon all the crimes committed over the years in order to obtain peace,” he said. “And for peace we are ready for any compromise and agreement.”
He also told the international community “not to try to portray the Georgian government as being in favor of violence.”
“We have been appealing to our partners for so many days – today we spoke with some world leaders – telling them to help stop the violence; help us in direct talks [with the secessionist authorities]; help us to internationalize the process. We are doing our utmost to prevent violence,” he said.
“Immediately cease fire, please,” he appealed to the secessionist authorities in South Ossetia at the end of his televised address. “We do not want to return fire. We have been tolerating this for so many years. Please, do not test the Georgian state’s patience. Let’s stop this spiral of violence… Let’s give peace and dialogue a chance.”