The international community Sunday actively sought diplomatic solutions to end the war between Georgia and Russia. So far it has failed to create the conditions to end the crisis with the two belligerents blaming each other for the continuing violence.
French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner landed Sunday night in Tbilisi and immediately headed for talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili. Kouchner is then expected to travel to Moscow to pursue the European mediation mission.
Georgia notified the Russian ambassador Sunday that its forces had ceased fire in the Tskhinvali region, in South Ossetia and that it was ready to start negotiations immediately with Moscow to end hostilities.
Russia responded by demanding the "unconditional withdrawal" of Georgian forces from South Ossetia, according to the Russian foreign ministry.
There have been numerous calls for a ceasefire since the conflict in South Ossetia started overnight on Thursday, in the wake of a Georgian military intervention.
Severe American warning
As soon as the Georgian ceasefire was made public, the United States announced that they would propose a resolution on Sunday at the UN Security Council condemning the Russian operations against Georgia.
US Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad said he would meet with his Western colleagues later in the day to finalize a draft resolution that would call for "an immediate ceasefire and withdrawal of all forces to the status quo" in the breakaway Georgian enclave of South Ossetia.
In heated exchanges with his Russian counterpart Vietaly Churkin, Khalilzad accused Moscow of seeking "regime change in Tbilisi" and of waging "a campaign of terror" in Georgia.
Washington’s severe warning closely followed that of the European Union, which warned Moscow on Saturday night that a continuation of its military operations on Georgian territory “would affect” their relations.
The EU proclaimed “with force its attachment to the sovereignty and the territorial integrity of Georgia,” while Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin had just declared that Georgian sovereignty over South Ossetia had received a “deadly blow”.
French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the rotating presidency of the European Union, called on Sunday to “stop the killing” in Georgia, after a crisis meeting.
His Italian counterpart Franco Frattini had called for a “united and balanced position” from Europe, while German Chancellor Angela Merkel adopted the strongest position by demanding an “immediate and unconditional ceasefire” in the Caucasus.
“Disproportionate use of force"
NATO called the Russian intervention a "disproportionate use of force", saying it was tantamount to a "direct military aggression". NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer also condemned “lack of respect for the territorial integrity of Georgia”.
But NATO was careful not get too embroiled in the Georgia-Russia conflict. Both countries are considered ‘strategic' NATO partners.
Georgia has been wanting to join NATO for several years. It failed to enter a partnership with the Alliance last spring. But Tbilisi expects much from a new meeting scheduled in December 2008.
Russia is opposed to any NATO enlargement on its periphery.