(AFP) – Aug 13, 2008
LONDON (AFP) — Foreign Secretary David Miliband on Wednesday urged Russia to back up claims of war crimes in South Ossetia, adding the idea of international peacekeepers there should be considered closely.
Speaking ahead of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on the Russia-Georgia conflict, Miliband told BBC radio that war crimes would be taken "very, very seriously indeed" if they could be proved.
"It's important to say the Russians have talked about war crimes, that's a very serious issue," Miliband stated.
"There has been tit-for-tat between South Ossetia and Georgia -- if there's any evidence of war crimes then the Russians must produce it because they're using the argument to justify what they've done.
"And we've got to say very clearly if there's war crimes, of course we take that very, very seriously indeed."
Miliband also accused Russia of "blatant aggression" and said there was merit in looking at a "proper international presence" in the region.
"I think at the moment people are talking more about the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)," he said when asked whether EU peacekeepers could be sent in.
"I think it would be quite wrong to rule that out. I think the UN is going to have an important role to play, and the OSCE....
"There needs to an internationalisation of this settlement process and then there needs to be proper engagement on the ground to make sure that the rights of Georgia and others are not flouted."
The armed conflict between Russia and Georgia erupted last week after South Ossetia came under attack from Georgian forces in an offensive that Russian officials claim killed 1,500 people.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Wednesday that Georgia and Russia had agreed a six-point peace plan, which obliges the parties to stop fighting, which will be considered by Miliband and EU colleagues later.
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