Georgian President Vows To Rebuild Army, Unite Enclaves
President Mikheil Saakashvili of Georgia said Sunday that he planned to rebuild his country’s shattered army, and that even after its decisive defeat in the war for control of one of Georgia’s two separatist enclaves he would continue to pursue a policy of uniting both enclaves under the Georgian flag.
“It will stay the same,” he said of his ambition to bring the two enclaves, South Ossetia and Abkhazia, under Georgian control. “Now as ever.”
Also on Sunday, France called an emergency summit meeting of the European Union for Sept. 1 to discuss “the future of relations with Russia” and aid to Georgia, according to a statement from the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy.
The meeting was framed as a response to Russia’s failure to meet the terms of the cease-fire agreement that Sarkozy negotiated between Moscow and Tbilisi. Sarkozy, in a statement, said he was responding to the demands of “several states” for the summit meeting, which will deal with “the crisis in Georgia” and take place in Brussels, Belgium.
According to senior French officials who helped negotiate the cease-fire agreement, the Russians must pull all their troops back to positions before the crisis began on Aug. 7. The Russian troops stationed in South Ossetia and Abkhazia before that date may stay, and may continue to send out patrols into a “security zone,” a thin buffer zone roughly five miles beyond the enclaves’ borders. But the Russians are not allowed to set up fixed positions in the security zone — an agreement that Russia has not adhered to, Sarkozy said Friday in a telephone call with President Bush.
In the Georgian Black Sea port of Batumi, the first American naval vessel arrived Sunday to distribute humanitarian aid.
A train carrying oil cars exploded while traveling near Gori, the city in central Georgia that Russia had occupied for about 10 days. Georgian officials said the train had struck a mine left behind by Russian troops. No one was reported killed in the blast and the raging fire that followed, which sent thick plumes of black smoke across the countryside.
With the bulk of Russian troops now withdrawn to the enclaves or to Russian soil, Saakashvili framed the war against South Ossetia and Russia — a military defeat that imperiled his government and threatens Georgia’s fragile economy — as a seminal moment that offered the seeds of political and national success.
In an interview in his office that stretched until nearly 2 a.m., Saakashvili said that Georgia had gained allies in the world and would embark upon a campaign of rebuilding. He predicted continued American support, and noted that he spoke by phone with the presumptive Republican nominee for president, Sen. John McCain, as often as twice a day, and said that he was in regular contact with Joseph R. Biden Jr., who has been picked to run for vice president on the Democratic ticket.
Saakashvili also said that the Bush administration had not communicated disappointment or signaled a decline in its support for him since he gave the order late at night on Aug. 7 to attack Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital.