By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Russia wins concesssions in Georgia truce
Placeholder Image
    PARIS — Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will ask Georgia to sign a cease-fire agreement with Russia that includes concessions to Moscow but preserves Georgian borders, U.S. officials said Thursday.
    The French-brokered agreement requires Russia to withdraw all of its combat forces from Georgia but gives Russian peacekeepers the express right to patrol beyond the disputed border region of South Ossetia that lies at the heart of the conflict, the officials said.
    Rice will bring the six-point document with her on Friday to Tbilisi where she plans to underscore the Bush administration’s support for the former Soviet republic’s pro-Western government but also seek President Mikhail Saakashvili’s approval, the officials said.
    The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because the accord is not yet finalized and there are still U.S. and Georgian concerns about the expanded patrol rights that need to be worked out.
    French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who worked out the deal, said Thursday after meeting with Rice in southern France that he believed that Russia would begin to withdraw its troops from South Ossetia, another disputed area of Abkahzia and Georgia proper once Saakashvili signs it.
    ‘‘If tomorrow, President Saakashvili signs these documents, then the withdrawal of the Russian troops can start,’’ he said.
    If agreed, the ceasefire would allow Russian peacekeepers who were in South Ossetia before the fighting broke out a week ago to stay and they would now be permitted to patrol in a strip up to 10 kilometers outside the area, the U.S. officials said.
    The concession was demanded by Russia, which accuses Georgian forces of attacking the peacekeepers and pro-Russian South Ossetians who live there. Georgia’s military move to regain control of the region prompted Russia to launch its invasion.
    The U.S. officials acknowledged the solution was not perfect, but said their primary goal is to get Russian combat forces out of Georgia as quickly as possible and that they would only accept the expanded patrol mandate if they were limited, well defined and temporary.
    ‘‘It can’t be open-ended, either geographically or in time,’’ one official said. ‘‘It has to be circumscribed and its got to be in the context of the Russians withdrawing all their armed forces.’’
    Russian patrols outside South Ossetia proper would stop once a new international peacekeeping and monitoring force is in place, the official said, adding that the Russians would not be allowed to use the 10-kilometer band ‘‘to impede legitimate Georgian movement.’’
    The ceasefire would also allow Russian peacekeepers to remain in Abkhazia, but they would not be given the expanded patrol rights, officials said.
    In return, the agreement calls for Russia to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, something that Sarkozy and Rice both stressed on Thursday after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov openly questioned the viability country’s established borders.
    ‘‘The United States of America stands strongly, as the president of France just said, for the territorial integrity of Georgia,’’ Rice said. ‘‘This is a member state of the United Nations and its internationally recognized borders need to be respected.’’
    ‘‘It is time for this crisis to be over,’’ she said. ‘‘The provisional cease-fire that was agreed to really must go into place. And that means that military activities have to cease.’’