Skip to main content

Georgia: South Ossetia

Volume 480: debated on Friday 17 October 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether the security and intelligence services reported to his Department on the possibility of military action by Georgia in South Ossetia before the action began. (223176)

It is the long standing policy of the Government not to comment on matters relating to the intelligence and security services.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what representations he has made to the Georgian government on the effects of its military actions in South Ossetia on civilians in the region. (223178)

Over the years, the UK, EU and its other allies have warned the Georgian government that any attempt to take over the two separatist regions (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) by force would be counterproductive.

In all our contacts with the Georgian Government, we have emphasised the serious consequences for innocent civilians caught up in military actions. We have urged the Georgians to agree to the ceasefire and then to implement the peace plan which would enable the international community to deal with the humanitarian situation.

On 8 August 2008, our ambassador in Tbilisi called on the Georgian Foreign Minister to express the UK Government's deep concerns at the renewed fighting and to call for an immediate ceasefire, not least to allow civilians to escape. He conveyed the Government's regret at the tragic loss of life.

In his call to the Georgian President on 15 August, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister expressed particular concern for the thousands of displaced people and pointed out that the Georgian government had a big responsibility to meet humanitarian needs in this crisis.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what meetings he has had with diplomats and officials from (a) Georgia, (b) Russia, (c) the UN, (d) the European Union and (e) NATO on the outbreak of conflict in South Ossetia since it took place; and if he will make a statement. (223396)

My right hon. Friend Foreign Secretary has had a number of meetings with international leaders concerning the outbreak of conflict in South Ossetia since hostilities began. These include his meeting with North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) Foreign Ministers in Brussels on 19 August. Later the same day, he met the Georgian President in Tbilisi, and again at the UN on 27 September. Also at the UN, he met the Russian Foreign Minister on 25 September. My right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary attended an extraordinary meeting of the European Council on 1 September. The Foreign Secretary also met the Georgian Prime Minister in London on 19 September.

Alongside the Foreign Secretary's meetings, UK officials and diplomats have been in close contact with UN, EU, NATO, G7, and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe partners, and the parties to the conflict, in the search for a lasting and peaceful resolution to the dispute between Georgia and Russia. Following my recent appointment as Minister for Europe at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, I look forward to helping to achieve that goal.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs on what date his Department first made a response to the attack by Georgian forces on 7 August on residents of Russian origin in South Ossetia; what the response was; to whom it was made; whether any revision has been made to that response subsequently; and what discussions his Department has had with the government of Georgia on the matter. (223474)

In a statement published on 8 August 2008, the Government joined international calls for an immediate ceasefire in South Ossetia after Georgia launched a military offensive to regain control of the breakaway province. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office said that it was “monitoring” developments and called for an immediate ceasefire in the fighting in South Ossetia and for a resumption of direct dialogue between all the parties.

On 8 August, our ambassador in Tbilisi called on the Georgian Foreign Minister, Eka Tkeshelashvili to urge restraint and cooperation with the international peace efforts and convey our support for Georgia's territorial integrity within the internationally recognised borders.

In a statement on 9 August, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary said: “The UK Government are deeply concerned by the violence in Georgia. The escalation in fighting is dangerously destabilising and there is also the threat of civilian losses on a large scale. I am today holding high level consultations with European Foreign Ministers and with the US Secretary of State. The UK will be discussing with all our partners how to stop the spread of violence, secure a ceasefire and get talks underway.”

On 15 August, my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke with the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili urging cooperation and implementation of the peace plan brokered by the EU and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in .Europe.

The Government's response to the crisis has remained the same—urging all parties to the conflict to work with the international community towards a sustainable resolution of the conflict based on territorial integrity, rule of law and respect for human rights.

I refer my hon. Friend to the Prime Ministerial written statement after the Extraordinary European Council on the crisis in Georgia on 1 September 2008 for further details of our response to the crisis, Official Report, 10 September 2008, columns 127-30WS.