U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently met with Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Noghaideli. She encouraged Georgia to move ahead with a new peace plan for South Ossetia.
The conflict there originated decades ago in 1920, when South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia, then a Soviet Republic. Thousands of people were killed when the Georgian government put down the rebellion. In 1921, the Soviet army invaded Georgia and declared South Ossetia to be an autonomous region within Georgia. During the Soviet period, South Ossetians were granted a degree of autonomy with regard to language and education.
In 1989, a nationalist group, the Popular Front, came to power in South Ossetia and demanded the region be made an autonomous republic. The Georgian government rejected this demand. In 1990, South Ossetia declared independence anyway, leading to armed conflict. A ceasefire was brokered by Russia in 1992. Tensions again increased in June 2004, when democratically elected Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili took steps toward reintegrating South Ossetia.
In January, demonstrating his intention to resolve the conflict only through peaceful means, President Saakashvili put forth at the Council of Europe a proposal for autonomy for South Ossetia within Georgia. Since then, Georgia's plan for a peaceful resolution of the conflict has been presented to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's Permanent Council in Vienna.
Bruce Connuck of the U.S. Mission to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe says, "The U.S. welcomes. . . .the plan for resolution of the South Ossetia conflict." The Georgian government has said it intends to adopt a law on restitution for victims of the conflict, promote economic cooperation, and establish a regional free-trade zone. "
The time has come to move forward together with the real work of conflict settlement," said Mr. Connuck. Left unresolved, the dispute in South Ossetia will undermine Georgia's territorial integrity and impede development of a strong and prosperous country. The conflict also poses a threat to the stability of the greater South Caucasus region.
All sides in the conflict and all other concerned parties, including the U.S., Russia, and the European Union, should intensify their cooperation and efforts to bring about a peaceful solution to the conflict.
The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States Government.