PRESS CONFERENCE BY GEORGIA
Department of Public Information . News and Media Division . New York
22 August 2007
Irakli Alasania, Permanent Representative of Georgia to the United Nations, told correspondents today that the intent behind the “unprovoked foreign military intervention into Georgian airspace” by the Russian Federation had been to intimidate the country and assess its military readiness, and to demonstrate who was the major player in the region, while testing the extent of the international community’s response in defence of the “young Georgian democracy”.
At a Headquarters press conference this morning, he said the intervention was intended to send a warning message to former Soviet republics and signal strong support for separatists. It was an attempt to halt the development of democracy and the spread of Western values -- not only in Georgia, but throughout the region. “Such actions constitute a threat to the international order, to peace and security, by undermining fundamental democratic values and endangering the primacy of international law,” he added.
Noting that such tactics had been used in the past, he said the international community had shown it would not tolerate them. However, Georgia wished to build a friendly relationship with the Russian Federation, based on mutual respect and understanding. “But recent developments leave us in serious doubt as to whether the Russian Federation seeks such a relationship. If the Russian Federation wishes to recover its credibility, then it must act and behave responsibly.”
He said the Government of Georgia, guided by the need to maintain stability in the region, had responded in a restrained and responsible manner and was doing everything possible to allow an impartial international assessment of the facts. “Nevertheless, we express our readiness to cooperate with the Russian side,” he stressed. “To bring clarity to this incident is a principal matter for us, not because we want to force someone into a corner, but just for preventive reasons, in order to avoid recurrence of such acts of aggression in the future.”
Expressing gratitude for the efforts of the experts who had confirmed the details of the incident, as initially presented by his Government, he said that, on 15 August, the Government of Sweden had released their report confirming the violation of Georgian airspace and the accuracy of all the data and evidence gathered by the Government of Georgia. Yesterday, a second group of experts had officially delivered its report to the Foreign Ministry. That report concluded: that Georgian airspace had been violated three times on 6 August by aircraft flying to and from Russian airspace; the last two passes had been towards Georgian radar near Gori; the missile had been launched towards that radar site from approximately 10 kilometres away; immediately after launch, the radar crew, had turned the transmitter off; the missile had impacted about 5 kilometres from the radar site without exploding; the projectile was a Russian-built KH-58U anti-radiation air-to-surface missile; and examination of Georgian aircraft had proved they had no capability to operate the missile.
In its efforts to act with the utmost transparency and to shed the most possible light on the incident, the Government of Georgia had initiated direct bilateral consultations with the Russian Federation, he said. However, the Russian side had attempted to deny that any aircraft had entered Georgia from its airspace, despite confirmation by two radar systems, numerous eyewitness accounts, and reports by the mission of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Joint Peacekeeping Force and two independent intergovernmental groups of experts. “Given the Russian refusal to acknowledge even the most basic facts surrounding the incident, Georgia felt that further consultations with Russia would prove pointless,” he added. “We wish this were not the case.”
Turning to yesterday’s press conference by the Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, he said the markings on the missile’s warhead casing, photographed prior to destruction, had indicated a manufacturing date of October 1992. Thus, the missiles had been built for the forces of the Russian Federation, rather than Soviet forces. “Therefore, the Russian position that during the Soviet times this missile was kept in an airbase on Georgian territory is absolutely groundless,” he added. “The history of Russian accusations of Georgia bombing its own territory is as long as it is absurd.”
He said he had been informed just prior to the press conference that between 18:46 and 18:49 hours yesterday, anti-aircraft defence had twice tracked incursions into Georgian airspace from the Russian Federation in the vicinity of Omarishara, a village in Upper Abkhazia. The Foreign Ministry had immediately sent a note of protest to the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding an immediate and clear explanation.
The Russian Federation, meanwhile, had been unable to provide any evidence contradicting the conclusions of the independent international expert groups, he said, adding that its only defence had been to cast doubt on the competence and impartiality of the experts. “The reason why the Russian Federation opposes any international involvement or deliberations on this matter, including discussions in the Security Council, is clear: it is simply trying to suppress the truth about what happened on August 6.”
Asked about the Russian Permanent Representative’s reference to English-language markings on the missile, and to Georgia’s covering up of the impact site, he acknowledged that two devices found on the ground were not Russian-made. It was true that the commission investigating the incident had found two Western-produced electronic chips and their control unit, which was not typical of Soviet radar. One explanation was that the missile had been modified or upgraded, since that type of missile had not been built to work against Georgia’s similarly Soviet-manufactured radar. As for the covered impact site, the hole had presumably been covered after recovery of the debris from the missile. “I’m not sure how relevant that is to the findings documented and presented to the international group of experts.”
Responding to a question about the Russian Permanent Representative’s remarks regarding the destruction of the missile’s serial number, manufacture date, and ignition of the missile, he said the missile had been documented and the explosives within it detonated to eliminate the threat to the experts documenting it. That was standard demining procedure.
He added that Georgia had more than 2,500 parts of the missile, which was more than enough to identify the missile and track it back to the Russian Federation. Previously, Georgia had presented the Russians with the tracking and serial numbers of a missile involved in a bombing in the Kodori region, but they had “come up with nothing”, saying they could not find it.
Regarding the status of the 16 March incident in the Kodori valley, he told another journalist that the case was still open and new information was expected.
As for the claim that Georgia had denied the Russian side access to the location of the radar that had tracked the intruding aircraft, he said part of the reason for the Russian request could be to find out the radar’s location. The Georgian side had provided all the relevant information, but the Russians had not provided any credible information or evidence. “The independent experts have not disagreed with the Georgian version; only the Russian experts have disagreed,” he pointed out.
Asked about the fate of Georgian and Russian civilians living in each other’s countries, he pointed out that both peoples had lived together for centuries. The current problems would eventually be resolved and the two countries would return to their traditional good relationship. Things had been “very good” 15 or 20 years ago and the Russian Federation should treat Georgia with respect as an independent country. Georgia was willing to rebuild a good relationship with the Russian political leadership, he said.
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For information media • not an official record
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