Russian troops will leave Georgian territory and return to Abkhazia and South Ossetia by October 11, in a deal that came after hours of negotiations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Under the terms of the agreement, the European Union would deploy 200 monitors later this month to the buffer area presently occupied by Russian troops.
Georgia and some western officials have accused Russia of violating the terms of the ceasefire that ended the brief conflict by keeping troops in the buffer zone, though yesterday French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner conceded that the differing interpretations had been caused by a “translation problem”.
President Sarkozy also attempted to get Russian President Dmitry Medvedev to reverse his previous decision to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, warning them against such unilateral measures. President Medvedev, however, said the “decision is irrevocable” and advised the European Union that it would have to accept it as reality. The Russian Foreign Ministry announced today that they are establishing formal diplomatic ties with the breakaway enclaves, and would be setting up embassies in both regions. The United States has vowed to block international recognition of the independence of either region.
The brief war destroyed much of Georgia’s military, and also created humanitarian issues for a number of displaced people on both sides of the conflict. Volunteer brigades from Russia poured into South Ossetia to help them rebuild in the wake of the Georgian offensive, while the United States military took control of all aid operations in Georgia, much to the consternation of the civilian aid agencies already there. The Pentagon announced today that it had ended its relief operations in Georgia, but suggested that a team would be dispatched at some later date to assess “security needs,” at a time when Georgia is reportedly contemplating a much larger military in anticipation of a future conflict.
NATO has recently linked Georgia’s air defense network into their own. On a visit to the nation last week, Vice President Dick Cheney publicly endorsed the idea of NATO membership for Georgia, a move which raised considerable ire from Russia. Russian envoy to NATO Dmitry Rogozin said that Georgian membership in NATO would provide “refuge to the aggressor country,” and suggested that such a move might mean the end of Russia’s cooperation with the US-led security alliance.