UNITED NATIONS, June 16 (RIA Novosti) - Russia used its veto to block an extension of the UN observer mission's mandate in Georgia and Abkhazia, in protest against the resolution's failure to recognize the "new political and legal circumstances."
On Monday evening, 10 countries on the 15-member United Nations Security Council voted in favor of the draft resolution to temporarily extend the mission, while four including China abstained, and Russia, which wields a veto as a permanent member, was alone in voting against.
Russia, which last year recognized Abkhazia as an independent state, objected to a reference in the draft to Resolution 1808 dated April 2008, which affirms Georgia's "territorial integrity."
Russia's UN envoy, Vitaly Churkin, called the reference "political poison" in view of last year's events in the Caucasus - Georgia's attack on breakaway South Ossetia, the ensuing Russia-Georgia war, and Russia's recognition of both South Ossetia and Abkhazia's independence.
"The international community must clearly acknowledge all the consequences of the barbarian attack on peaceful Tskhinval on August 8, 2008. Through this action, the regime of [President Mikheil] Sakhashvili placed a cross on his country's territorial integrity, and two new countries appeared on the world map," he told the council.
He said it is unclear what motivated the other Security Council members to insist on such a wording, which could never be approved by Russia, but that "in any case, it was not the interests of strengthening stability and security in the Caucasus region."
The envoy said Russia had pushed to extend the mission for one month while a new draft, without the controversial reference, could be agreed, but that other council members had declined.
"All responsibility for ending the UN presence in the Caucasus lies with our partners," Churkin said.
Russia's Foreign Ministry said in a statement that "under the new political and legal circumstances, most of the names and terms previously used in the old documents are inapplicable."
The mandate of the UN mission, which comprises around 130 military observers and several dozen police officers, expired at 04:00 GMT on Tuesday. The mission was set up in 1993 after Abkhazia's war with Georgia, which led to the province's de facto independence.
The Security Council had been debating a draft that would have extended the mission for just two weeks, to give time for a longer mandate to be approved.
Georgian envoy Alexander Lomaia told the council that Russia's decision was part of a strategy to "roll back the international community's presence in Georgia."
U.S. Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo said Washington "deeply regrets" Russia's decision, and reaffirms its support for Georgia's territorial integrity.
U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's press office also voiced regret over the council's failure to reach an agreement.
British envoy Philip Parham said the European Union will need to consider ways of bolstering its monitoring mission in Georgia, to prevent further conflicts.