|08BRUSSELS1260||2008-08-14 11:04:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Brussels|
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C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 BRUSSELS 001260
1. (C) SUMMARY: Belgium, as with other EU members,
continues to be concerned about the agreement reached between
Russia and Georgia. Belgium agrees on the urgency of
establishing a mechanism to support international observers
in Georgia, with reliance on the OSCE observers already on
the ground there as the logical first step. The next steps
in the response to the crisis should be under the auspices of
the UNSC. However, Belgium admits that the Russians are in
the best possible position for the moment and that Russia had
been waiting for an excuse to launch its action in Georgia.
Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht was critical of the
clause in the EU cease-fire plan allowing Russia to take
extra security measures pending deployment of an
"international mechanism." END SUMMARY.
2. (C) On August 14, Charge delivered the points in refs A
and B to Jean-Luc Bodson, Adjoint Director of the Office of
the Minister in the Belgian MFA. Bodson reported that
Belgian Foreign Minister De Gucht had attended the EU Council
of Ministers meeting in Brussels August 13. He reported that
many member states had had doubts about the real meaning of
the Russia-Georgia cease-fire agreement, especially Part 5
which allowed Russian "peace-keeping forces" to stay and be
enlarged while waiting for the arrival of international
peacekeeping forces. Member states were also concerned that
no mention was included about the territorial integrity of
3. (C) Bodson said the EU had expressed its support for
urgent development of a mechanism to allow observers to be
deployed to Georgia. Bodson said it would clearly make sense
to rely first on the OSCE observers already on the ground
there. Bodson said the EU is ready to send any
help--including troops and supplies--once a UNSC mandate is
agreed to support such a step. Belgium expects the next step
to be a debate within the UNSC.
4. (C) Clearly, the Russians will not want a resolution but
probably only a declaration with both parties denouncing the
use of violence. Bodson said the prevailing mood at the
meeting yesterday was that there was a fragile cease-fire in
place. It was important to consolidate it and not to
antagonize the Russians. The agreement brokered by French
President Sarkozy was not even in writing but had only been
agreed to on the phone by Russian President Medvedev.
5. (C) Bodson noted that there are clearly red lines that
should be in any agreement, including protecting the
territorial integrity of Georgia. However, there must be
more clarity about what is actually happening in Georgia. He
referred to press reports during yesterday's Council meeting
that Russian tanks were entering Gori. However, moments
later other reports contradicted that story. Such confusion
highlights the need to have international observers on the
ground in Georgia.
6. (C) Asked whether Belgium would be willing to provide
observers, Bodson replied that was "thinking far ahead."
Before such a step could happen the Security Council would
need to pass a resolution to consolidate agreement between
the parties and then negotiate the mechanism for observers
and a longer-term cease-fire. It is unlikely the Russians
would evacuate areas they currently occupy but it might be
possible to deploy international observers alongside the
Russian units. Whether the observers were military or
civilian would need to be negotiated with the Russians.
However, it was important that observers should have a
physical presence on the ground.
7. (C) Bodson thinks the Russians are in the best possible
position and that they had been waiting for an excuse to
launch an operation. However, he asked, "Are any of us
willing to confront the Russians over Georgia?" "I doubt
it," he answered himself. Nevertheless, the Charge stressed
that it remained important to make the Russians understand
clearly the damage they have done to their international
standing and to their relations with the U.S. and the EU.
8. (C) It was too soon to decide on the impact of the
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crisis on EU-Russian relations, added Bodson. However, that
would be on the agenda for the EU meeting being held in
Avignon in early September.
9. (U) In an interview given to a Belgian newspaper,
Foreign Minister De Gucht also criticized the clause in the
cease-fire plan that allowed Russia to take extra security
measures pending deployment of an "international mechanism."
This allows Russia to deploy its "peace-keeping" forces to
protect its minorities residing abroad. De Gucht added,
"That principle does not exist in international law. You can
only protect your own citizens via consular or political
ways, not by invading another country. The EU Presidency
needs to be clearer on that point."