Press conference Georgia’s President Mikheil Saakashvili and German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel

I would like to welcome mission by Chancellor Merkel.

I think that this was a very brave undertaking of diplomacy on her part.

We are very grateful for German position, for many months trying to prevent it, trying to broker diplomatic agreement that would enable us to avoid the worst; and I am also very grateful for the German position to intervene immediately, and to try to stop fighting violence and disaster that's taking place.

I think Chancellor Merkel is a very brave statesman and not only brave, but has profound understanding on what's really happening here and in the region of the whole context.

I want to also thank President of France for his efforts to mediate ceasefire on behalf of the EU; there are many challenges ahead of us; we have, as we speak, violence and looting taking place, they are throwing people out of the houses and they are not only doing that, but they are acknowledging they are doing that, and they are doing ethnic cleansing.

The world should never allow to legalize the results of ethnic cleansing.

We have tens of thousands of displaced persons and I do not want to see children without houses because somebody decides to do so.

We need to do immediate withdrawal, we need verification of withdrawal and ceasefire, preferably by UN and OSCE monitors, we need humanitarian aid reaching everybody, and in the end we need peacekeepers taking over conflict areas and doing genuine conflict resolution in the interests of all our ethnic groups.

We need 21st century solution to the 20th century conflicts, and not 19th and 18th century solutions that were taking place until now.

It is very important that together with Madam Chancellor we discussed the issues of rebuilding my country; right now infrastructure of my country is being damaged; as we spoke I had an information about additional building, roads and bridges mined, the main railway bridge has been blown up; economic infrastructure is methodically devastated and destroyed; but together with the EU help, the help of Germany and other big actors we will rebuild and put Georgia on feet again, make it prosperous like it was until now, and we will keep this country free, democratic, and we will be enabled to have free future for all ethnic groups living in this country.

As I said and one thing should be made very clear, Georgia will never give up any squire kilometer of its territory, no matter what happens we will never reconcile with fact of annexation or separation parts of Georgia, with the attempts to legalize ethnic cleansing, with the attempts to bring Georgia on the knees and undermine our democratic system.

We are grateful to see brave Chancellor of Germany here, among us.

I am very grateful for the position she took during the last several days, as well as her attempts to avoid what has happened, certainly for many months Germany has tried not to bring the situation to where it was brought in the end.

Thank you so much Madam Chancellor, and the floor is yours.

German Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel

Thank you, very much Mr. President! It was my pleasure to visit you here, to express my support towards the Georgian people. I came here to support Georgian government in resolving those missions that they are facing right now.

We are deriving from the fact, that Georgia is a sovereign state and we have to honor its territorial integrity, like the territorial integrity of any other country.

We have supported that six paragraph accord on cease-fire and we hope, that the already signed plan, will be timely fulfilled.

The document was signed yesterday and we expect the Russian forces to leave Georgia soon.

We are waiting for the process, which is not happening as we were expecting.

Withdrawal of the forces is the first step, after which international observers must get to the region.

There is an approval from President Medvedev on this issue, but this is the moment, which should not be delayed.

We must have the ability to distribute our humanitarian aid among the refugees, it specially concerns the people in South Ossetia, at the same time these people need to return to their homes.

The next step is negotiations on the status of peacekeeping forces in the region.

The German Federal government expressed readiness of EU and the readiness of German Federal Republic to take its own share in this process.

It is natural, that this issue will be discussed multilaterally.

We will also talk about necessary events for the reconstruction of Georgia as well.

I think EU has a special mission, which will be carried out. Germany is ready to participate in specific projects and what's most important - in a timely manner.

I think this is very important, specially when the greatest part of the infrastructure is destroyed.

I once again confirm, what I had stated in Sochi.

The decisions of Bucharest are still in force, nothing has changed - if Georgia wants, if Georgia has a will - it can become a NATO member.

Besides this, EU neighboring policy will change and it will become more intensive towards Georgia. The same concerns the countries like Armenia, Azerbaijan, Moldova, Kazakhstan, Turkmenia.

I think there is a possibility to hold a meeting with the participation of EU and neighboring countries.

We will have a chance of active contacts next week, though the most important is to resolve the first round missions.

And once again I would like to underline, that the first mission is withdrawal of Russian forces from the Georgian territory.


TV Rustavi 2:

I have a question to Madame Merkel. Despite of the fact, that the peace agreement is already signed - presidents of Georgia and Russia have already signed it and according to this agreement Russian troops had to pull out from Georgia - this agreement is not executed yet and Russian troops are still on the territory of Georgia. Don't you think that exact date should be designated within which Russian troops should leave territory of Georgia, and what mechanism does Europe has to control withdrawal of these troops from this territory?

Angela Merkel:

I met President Medvedev on Friday. He agreed to sign the above-mentioned document on the withdrawal of the forces. We have bilateral signatures, now time has come to take some specific steps forward and we expect that these steps will be taken not after several weeks but after several days. As soon as we are back, we will once again take a chance and talk to the Russian side and require from them to fulfill a given promise. Not only Georgia but the whole world expects the withdrawal of Russian forces. Here we have to consider the factor of several countries in the world. I expect, that Russian forces will leave the Georgian territory.

The session of the Foreign Ministers of the NATO countries will be held on Tuesday. The real withdrawal of Russian forces must take place before this session.

Once again - it is possible and necessary to do this immediately.

Mikheil Saakashvili:

Yesterday we had contacts with Russian generals, and yesterday, after Medvedev signed ceasefire, they advanced towards the roads that are leading towards the capital Tbilisi, and the Russian generals we were talking to, were telling the following: that they have two options now: to move towards Tbilisi, or to pull back; and they are waiting for the orders yet. That was by late night yesterday. So meanwhile, I have to say that today they also mined new bridges, and another thing that we have been hearing from Russian military sources is that another task they have is to destroy Georgia's economic infrastructure to the point that it would beyond repair. That's what we've been hearing, I can not speculate whether this is direct task from the Russian leadership; that's what they are saying on the ground; and unfortunately what they are saying on the ground has been implementing; so it matters.

The main disaster now has to be avoided and they have to start to pull back, and I hope that the idea to go towards the capital is not implementable; I want the world to know that we will defend the capital no matter what it takes, we have most of out forces intact, and we have most of our weapons intact; I hope that it never gets to this point. I hope that they will comply to their obligations; I think the world should watch; I think that we will have constructive dialogue with everybody, including in the future with the Russians. But now certainly we need to find the way and get out of this impasse.

German TV, „ARD":

Madame Chancellor, how possible it is for you, that this six-paragraph accord formularies developed by EU Presidium, concerning specially 5th and 6th paragraphs, lacked exactness, that gave Russia a possibility to act in a "free manner"?

Mr. President inside your country there are voices saying that you had your own role by escalating that conflict. And you have to carry a part of responsibility by attacking Tskhinvali. What would you say on that.

Angela Merkel:

First of all I would like to mention that it was very important and very correct to develop this six-paragraph accord. We helped our French colleagues in this process. This is a plan on cease-fire and it does not include separate political aspects. This plan had an attachment, on which Georgian and Russian sides had agreed both. The political will of this plan is absolutely clear. Russian President has mentioned several times that withdrawal of forces is un-doubtful.

We have discussed in details where must security zones be established and how they would be arranged. As I understand there is an agreement on this issue as well, before the international observers get to the region. I think we have reached all type of agreements and it is impossible to talk about some misunderstandings. It is natural that a lot of problems will be raised, when we get to the political decisions. But I think it is absolutely clear, what we have to do today.

Mikheil Saakashvili:

With regard to the second question; first of all Georgia is a democracy, unlike Russia, which is not a democracy. Here we have a free media for all this period; and here we have voices that dissent from the official position; and not only from the official position, but you saw huge rallies in downtown Tbilisi; we have opinion polls that overwhelmingly say that absolute majority of Georgians are really behind the government positions; this is a democracy and people might say different things, and politicians might say different things. But what is absolutely clear is that for many months we've been warning the world that Russia was preparing aggression against Georgia.

We warned different politicians in the world, we told that Russian were bombing Georgia, Russians were menacing us directly; few days before Russia started to attack Georgia, they evacuated whole civilian population of Tskhinvali and areas, and this should have told you something. This was the time when I was gone for holydays, most of our ministers were gone for holydays, I only came back and cut short my holydays when I understood that things are going really bad. And I called back my officials and most of them could not make back. And you know what? Every time big neighbor, big Russia attacks some neighbor they blame the neighbor; give me one time in history when Russia said their attack was unprovoked; they always said it was provoked; it was provoked by Finland, it was provoked by Czechoslovakia, it was provoked by Hungary, it was provoked by Afghanistan. Look at Russian military buildup for months; look at the article by Russia's top military expert Mr. Pavel Felgengauer, which was published in Russian press a few days ago and it was also on Radio Liberty. He clearly said that Russians for many months were preparing for attack against Georgia in August. He did not say it only post factum, he was saying that tree months before the attack. All of you did not pay attention to it.

Now you come back to me and blame us? Non of the mainstream European media paid attention to it, and there were Russians saying: it was us. There were all the indications on the ground saying this, and people might ask who fired the first shots? Well if there hundreds of tanks rolling into your country, you have two choices, either fight or surrender. I made it very clear, no matter what, Georgia will not surrender. If tanks continue to roll, we will again not surrender. This is my country, this is my obligation to protect this multi-ethnic population, this is the government of Georgia, which is the most cosmopolitan and multiethnic among all the countries in the region; and our fundamental belief is that this nation belongs to people of all ethnic origins.

And we have obligation to protect the groups of all ethnic origins even if sometimes it seems hopeless; hopeless when you have twelve hundred tanks as minimum and now the latest figure I have got is up to two thousand armors on our territory; of course no Georgian army can stop this, but does it have obligation to at least try? Yes we have. And should we have done it? Yes we should have done it. Did we fail? I do not think so, because people got united, and I think that eventually they will get out of my country and allow people to develop in peace. Now, we are open for international investigation of what led to conflict. We demanded immediate access to the place for all international organizations; we were the ones who demanded transparency, we were the ones who asked preliminary conflict prevention, we were the ones who had extended autonomy offers on the place; but it is not just separatism, you should realize, it is separatism financed and done by foreign country.

In Tskhinvali in the separatist government were mostly Russian officials from Russia, ethnically Russians; so it is not about separatism, it is another kind of separatism; it is not about what was in Balkans; this was another big country coming in and no matter what amount money we would try to give South Ossetians they would give ten times more with their own income; no matter what type of autonomy we would offer South Ossetia, where would be nobody to negotiate it; no matter how many discos and schools and movie theaters we built there they would bring more weapons and say this is not about discos any more but this is about weapons and fighting. Who was doing military buildup there? Who was building infrastructure? Us? Definitely not! Look at the history! We want international investigation provided Russians allow it. Your media carried lies about 2000 people dead in Tskhinvali, not you but it was reported by the Russians.

Now everybody knows that it was lie, as it is lie that Georgians started something, as it is lie that Georgians were stepped into the trap, because frankly, whether we would have wanted or not to step into the trap it did not matter, because it was decided for us and it happened. Did Czechoslovakia stepped into trap? Did Hungary stepped into trap? Did Afghanistan stepped into trap? No! when somebody decides to go for it takes both parties to prevent conflict; if one side wants it there is no way to stop it from the other side; sorry for long description but again we are open, we are transparent, and last point: there always will be Georgians that will say that Georgian government did this and that but that's a beauty of democracy. You should not expect that people in this country speaks one voice of its president. I got mandate from my people though very difficult elections of last year; and unfortunately when all means were exhausted to get rid of the Georgian government through the legal means, through elections, through embargoes - it was not legal but through all kind of subversion and now they used the last one, and I predicted that this last one would be military; I predicted it; I hoped I would be wrong, unfortunately I proved more right than I would think.

Georgian Public Broadcasting:

You said that NATO doors are open for Georgia and if Georgia wishes, it can become a member country. But it is a fact, that we had not received as much support, as we expected. Will Germany support Georgia at the nearest summit in getting MAP?

Angela Merkel:

The council has already supported Georgia, you can read it in the document adopted during the Bucharest summit. It is underlined there, that Georgia and Ukraine will get membership, and it does not happen very often. What caused dispute was MAP. Different opinions were expressed on this issue. I can not tell you when this step will be taken, but I would like to tell you, what was said in Bucharest, does not loose its force even today. I think this official, unilateral statement is very important today. Specifically I mean that Georgia is an independent and sovereign state. And any independent, free state can decide together with the NATO member countries when and how to become alliance member.

The first meeting to discuss this issue is planned to be held in December and I think we are on the right way to the integration in the NATO.

Mikheil Saakashvili:

I have to also mention that this addition that Georgia and Ukraine will become the members of NATO, it is not a big secret, was initiated by Madam Chancellor.

Angela Merkel:

I can say that I was actively involved in this process, but I was not alone. You can praise other guests who will visit your country, but once again, there were some issues, on which different opinions were expressed. But as for the principle issues, we had one and the same opinion. We have to find connection to that official statement, which we had adopted in Bucharest.

German TV, II channel, Moscow bureau, "ZDF":

Mr. President inside your country there are voices saying that you had your own role by escalating that conflict. And you have to carry a part of responsibility by attacking Tskhinvali. What would you say on that.

Madame Chancellor, have you noticed the readiness of the President of Georgia to take this step?

Mikheil Saakashvili:

Well, we have a clarification on this from Sarkozy about it and it clearly says that they can not go in the urban centers, they can not occupy the roads as it is now; and ceasefire arrangements is not final deal on anything. My position is and it is not going to change that there is not such notion in Georgia as Russian peacekeeper. There can be no Russian peacekeeper; these are Russian forces that just brutally attacked and invaded my country; there can not be Russian mediation, there can be a good dialogue between Russia and Georgia in the future and we need that. But Russia is a main party of the conflict, there is no South Ossetian party to the conflict, because all people in Tskhinvali they are Russian officials. Minister of defense of Tskhinvali was Mr. Barankevich, Russian official, minister of interior was Russian official, prime minister Mr. Makarov was cousin of the former Prime Minister of Russia, Mr. Fradkov; now, you are telling me that we have problems with the South Ossetian separatists? The main South Ossetian separatist, Mr. Sanakoyev was several times attacked by Russians sitting there, and almost blew up and he is now number one target for them. So, let's put things very blunt, it is no longer mascarad at least - Georgia vs. South Ossetia. It is Georgia vs. Russia; and there can no longer be Russian peacekeepers, any Russian presence can be a transitional presence.

Now, how we get from where we are to where we should be - through negotiations and diplomatic process. That's why Madam Chancellor was in Sochi, that's what Nicolas Sarkosy has to do, that's what NATO activity was to engage Russia and find modalities when there should be the genuine international process, not putting under question Georgia's territorial integrity, but getting back to all kinds of autonomy initiatives.

Now what about the security zone: Russians use this arrangement to keeping IDPs away from their villages and houses, which never was the part of South Ossetia anyway, never were under control of people in Tskhinvali; that's going to be protracted problem and protracted issue; we are not going to reconcile with this fact; this is the temporary ceasefire arrangement for people to get back to their houses; if Russians, as a result of this intervention, get control of bigger part of Georgia and then they claim that you should negotiate on any one area it is in our control, then there have achieved their purpose. Now you understand why invasion was for them in the first place. We should not allow that, and I challenge the world media to talk on those things, because ethnic cleansing is taking place on purpose; not just an outcry; I regret any deaths both civilian and military on both sides; Georgians never did any ethnic cleansing and Georgians never did any deliberate killings; but what they are doing now is to deliberately cleanse ethnically the areas and establish control there.

That should not be allowed to happen; this is fundamental principle of justice. And if there is no justice there will be no real peace; we need to go through dialogue, negotiations, tolerance, through very tight diplomatic process.

Angela Merkel:

I can only repeat what the President said - we agreed to establish security zones, as a temporary means. It is very important to bring international monitors to the country, in order to change the situation here. Not only the CIS forces must stand on the ground. These temporary means, must not become the cause for not withdrawing Russian troops from Georgia.

German TV channel:

Does there still exist an opinion in your government, which your Foreign Minister expressed in the beginning of a conflict, that Germany must not put the responsibility on any side for starting the conflict and can you briefly describe those different opinions, that can exist among EU member countries or in the German government regarding this conflict?

Angela Merkel:

I cannot speak for the others, but in my opinion we must not spend our time and energy discussing the genesis of this conflict. The sides must later do it. First of all, we must fulfill those specific paragraphs, on which we have unilateral agreement. As far as I know, EU Foreign Ministers share the same position. The six-paragraph accord, developed by the President of EU and supported by the sides, must create the basis, on which the EU will later rely. There is no different opinion on other paragraphs as well. Each country must express its attitude. I can only speak on behalf of my country, Germany. But I am very glad that EU together with the United States (and Condoleezza Rice's visit confirms this) developed this six-paragraph action plan, that will be followed by cease-fire and the rest.

This must absolutely necessarily be fulfilled.

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of the President of Georgia

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