The presidents of three Eastern European countries today spoke out at the General Assembly against the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia, warning that the United Nations’ role in international peace and security has been undermined by what happened last month.
Addressing the Assembly’s annual high-level debate in New York, Estonian President Toomas Hendrik Ilves said the world “must realise that the principles governing relations between States has been seriously damaged” as a result of the fighting between Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian forces.
“We have the right to demand and ensure that the UN is capable of convincing one member to withdraw its military forces from the territory of another sovereign Member State, and to terminate its aggression,” he said.
The UN loses its reason for existence, Mr. Ilves warned, if Member States are selective according to their convenience about whether they follow international law. He called for the UN to have greater capacity to regulate and resolve conflicts.
“Russia’s behaviour in the weeks following the cessation of combat activity showed us that, unfortunately, even in the first decade of the 21st century, it is possible to refuse to adhere to international treaties, to interpret them arbitrarily, and to observe international laws only when it serves one’s self-interest.”
Latvian President Valdis Zatlers called for a clear plan to solve the Georgian crisis, which he said must start with the implementation of the six-point ceasefire agreement by Russia.
“Foreign troops must be removed from all of the Georgian soil,” he said. “Equally important is the establishment of [the European Union] EU monitoring mission for normalization of situation in Georgia.”
Mr. Zatlers voiced concern that “protection of nationals abroad” had been used as a pretext to use force in another country without the approval of the Security Council.
He also called for the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG), which has monitored a separate ceasefire accord between Georgian and Abkhaz forces in the northwest of the country since the early 1990s, to be allowed to continue its work without obstacles.
Lech Kaczynski, President of Poland, told the Assembly that “illegal military aggression” had taken place in Georgia.
“Fundamental principles of international law, i.e. [the] inviolability of borders and territorial integrity were infringed. We may not allow for relativization of the principles of international law and for their free interpretation by some countries,” he said.
Mr. Kaczynski said the recent developments in Georgia had also raised important questions about energy security across Europe.
“Poland’s concern arises from the fact that certain States use energy supplies in order to achieve political goals in relations with our neighbours.”
He added that it was pivotal to establish more diverse sources of energy supply, to increase the transparency of the rules regulating trade in fuels and to expand transport infrastructure so that fuels from Central Asia and the Caspian Sea basin can reach European Union member countries along different routes.