Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 17 Aug.’08 / 20:54
• Saakashvili: a lie that Georgia started it;
• Tbilisi ready for international investigation;
• Merkel: no time for putting blame;
President Saakashvili has strongly brushed off any suggestion that it was his administration to blame for armed conflict with Russia and said Georgia was ready for international investigation to find out what led to the conflict.
At a joint news conference with German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, President Saakashvili was asked to comment on allegations that he also was partially responsible for the crisis because of attacking breakaway South Ossetia.
Saakashvili said in a response that it was Russia which sent its troops to Georgia and Tbilisi just had to react. He also pointed out that Georgia had been telling the world about, what he said was, Russia’s preparations for invasion into Georgia for months.
“None of you did pay attention at it,” he said, “and now you come back to me and blame us? None of the mainstream European media paid attention at it; there were all the indications on the ground saying this; and people now might say: who fired first shots; well, if there are hundreds of tanks rolling into your country you have two choices – either to fire or surrender. I made it clear, no matter what, Georgia will never surrender. If tanks continue to roll we will not again surrender.”
He also said that Russia now tried to justify its action under the pretext of protecting its citizens in South Ossetia. He, however, said it was a Soviet-old tactics.
“Every time big Russia attacks some neighbor Russia is always blaming a neighbor. Give me one time in history when Russia said that their attack was unprovoked; they always said that it was provoked: it was provoked by Finland; it was provoked by Hungary; it was provoked by Czechoslovakia; it was provoked by Afghanistan,” Saakashvili said.
He acknowledged that it was impossible to stop “two thousand Russian tanks” that rolled into Georgia/
“But does it [the Georgian government] have the obligation to at least try? Yes we have,” he continued. “Should we’ve done it? Yes. Did we fail? I do not think so, because people got united and I think they will eventually get out of my country and allow people to develop in peace.”
He also said that Georgia was “open for international investigation of what led to the conflict.”
“We are the ones that immediately demanded access on the ground for international organizations and we were the ones to call for transparency,” he said.
He also said that Georgia was forced into the trap.
“It is lie that Georgians stepped into the trap, because frankly whether we would have wanted to step into the trap or not that did not matter, because that was decided for us for all of us and that happened,” Saakashvili said.
The German Chancellor Merkel told the news conference that it was not time for speaking about the origins of the conflict; she said ceasefire and fulfillment of six-point plan was the priority at the moment.
She said she expected a “very fast, very prompt” withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia. She called it an “urgent matter.”
Saakashvili said Georgia was grateful for the support of the German Chancellor, whom he described as “very brave statesman.”
“We need immediate withdrawal [of Russian troops], we need verification of withdrawal and ceasefire preferably by EU and OSCE monitors; we needed humanitarian aid reaching everybody and in the end we need peacekeepers taking over the conflict areas and doing genuine post-conflict resolution in interest of all ethnic groups,” Saakashvili said.
“Georgia will never give up any square mile of its territory; no matter what happens we will never reconcile with the fact of annexation or separation of parts of territory from Georgia with the attempts to legalizing ethnic cleansing and with the attempts to bring Georgia to the knees and to undermine the democratic system,” he added.