Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili addresses a special session of the Security Council about the attack on Georgian villages in Upper Abkhazia

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has addressed a special session of the Security Council about the attack on Georgian villages in Upper Abkhazia (the upper part of the Kodori Gorge) on the evening of 11 March. He called the incident an act of "desperation and anger" and instructed Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili to immediately contact his Russian counterpart and demand an appropriate response. Saakashvili emphasized that Georgia remained committed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict with Abkhazia, though he noted that Georgia would "use its available resources to protect the population" in case of further attacks. He also extended his condolences to the families of three Georgian soldiers who died in a helicopter crash in Dusheti District during the night of 11-12 March. The following is the text of Saakashvili's remarks to the council:

I think that the situation is alarming and requires a lot of thought. However, it is not unexpected. We had information in advance from various sources that such armed acts of provocation might be carried out in Upper Abkhazia, and still could be.

This is a very dangerous act of provocation with serious long-term aims which was intended to lead to a deterioration of order and the situation in that region, the whole of Georgia and the wider region, of which Georgia is part.

I do not want us to make some kind of unilateral accusations. The foreign minister has instructions to immediately contact his Russian counterpart and firmly demand a response to this issue. This is a completely unacceptable incident. And we hope that we will be able to establish everything exactly about the aims and perpetrators of this act and prevent this happening in the future.

However, it seems that there exist some people, certain forces, for whom we are all a bone stuck in their throat. The complete lawlessness in Tskhinvali [South Ossetia] and those areas of Abkhazia which we do not control has shown everyone that there is no prospect of legitimizing this lawlessness and that is not a way out for them either.

Now it seems that, being in a state of desperation and anger, the only instrument that they think they can still use to provoke some reaction from us, is to stage such acts of provocation.

I would like everyone to understand that we have a firm course for Georgia's peaceful unification, stability and the next stage of economic development. Georgia has great prospects and it does not need armed confrontation or chaos. Georgia is a safe, stable country with great economic prospects. No-one will divert us from that course. I would like everyone to know that that is our course, just as our course is integration with NATO. No-one should have the illusion that such actions will make us reject our fundamental principles. This is the choice of the Georgian people confirmed repeatedly in the most critical situations: the country's peaceful development, the return to the European home and good, neighbourly relations with all our strategic partners, neighbours, traditional allies and friends.

Another very unfortunate incident took place yesterday. While the bombing was under way, military helicopters were sent to Senaki to reinforce the western direction. One of the helicopters had to return because of bad weather conditions in the mountains, but crashed on the way back, killing [all] three members of the crew.

I would like you [addressing Defence Minister Davit Kezerashvili] to conduct a thorough investigation into all the causes of this. Our military capability has increased significantly. We have far more aircraft, pilots and specialists. Naturally, while someone is growing, tragedies can of course happen. However, we must not put up with that and do our utmost to prevent them in the future.

I would like you to ensure that the families of the killed members of the crew are well looked after. We should conduct a thorough investigation into this incident or any other such incident.

I want everyone to realize that the attack on Upper Abkhazia, which I know is a bone in the throats of the separatists and some of their patrons - [changes tack] Their plans and cards were upset by the very successful operation which we carried out there last year and especially by the reconstruction work, which is already making them angry.

Any attack on the population of Upper Abkhazia is an attack on Georgia as a whole. Georgia will be united in using its available resources, which are sufficient - we have been working towards that for a long time - to protect the population of that region or the population of any other region if there are attempts to cause them problems.

Any attempt to legitimize the fragmentation of Georgia and such attacks on the population will be met with well-organized, very staunch and well-thought-out resistance from Georgia and the Georgian public. We will not allow anyone to undermine peace in Georgia. We will not allow anyone to implement their plans to draw us into a conflict. However, all this confirms yet again how right we were, despite criticism from some opponents both at home and abroad, to modernize all the resources available to us and how essential it is that this programme continues very effectively. No-one should have any illusions about it. Georgia's modernization, including from the viewpoint of security, will continue. That is another important factor in preserving peace and protecting our statehood and the rights of every person in Georgia.

Translated by BBC Monitoring

Press Office
of the President of Georgia

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