Good morning. The situation in Georgia continues to deteriorate because of the escalation of Russia's use of military force. I have spoken to President Saakashvili, and conveyed my deep regret over the loss of life, and the suffering of the people of Georgia. For many months, I have warned that there needs to be active international engagement to peacefully address the disputes over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, including a high-level and neutral international mediator, and a genuine international peacekeeping force - not simply Russian troops.
No matter how this conflict started, Russia has escalated it well beyond the dispute over South Ossetia and invaded another country. Russia has escalated its military campaign through strategic bombing and the movement of its ground forces into the heart of Georgia. There is no possible justification for these attacks.
I reiterate my call for Russia to stop its bombing campaign, to stop flights of Russian aircraft in Georgian airspace, and to withdraw its ground forces from Georgia. The Georgian government has proposed a cease-fire and the Russian government should accept it. There is also an urgent need for humanitarian assistance to reach the people of Georgia, and casualties on both sides.
The United States, Europe and all other concerned countries must stand united in condemning this aggression, and seeking a peaceful resolution to this crisis. We should continue to push for a United Nations Security Council Resolution calling for an immediate end to the violence. This is a clear violation of the sovereignty and internationally recognized borders of Georgia - the UN must stand up for the sovereignty of its members, and peace in the world.
I welcome the visit of the French and Finnish foreign ministers to Georgia as a first step toward mediation. There should also be a United Nations mediator to address this crisis, and the United States should fully support this effort. We should also convene other international forums to condemn this aggression, to call for an immediate halt to the violence, and to review multilateral and bilateral arrangements with Russia - including Russia's interest in joining the World Trade Organization.
The violence taking place along the Black Sea is just miles from Sochi, the site for the Winter Olympics in 2014. It only adds to the tragedy and outrage of the current situation that Russia has acted while the world has come together in peace and athletic competition in Beijing. This action is wholly inconsistent with the Olympic ideal.
While returning to a pre-August 8 military posture is a necessary first step to resolving this crisis, we cannot tolerate the unacceptable status quo that led to this escalation. That means Russian peacekeeping troops should be replaced by a genuine international peacekeeping force, Georgia should refrain from using force in South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and a political settlement must be reached that addresses the status of these disputed regions.
Going forward, the United States and Europe must support the people of Georgia. Beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, we must provide economic assistance, and help rebuild what has been destroyed. I have consistently called for deepening relations between Georgia and transatlantic institutions, including a Membership Action Plan for NATO, and we must continue to press for that deeper relationship.
The relationship between Russia and the West is long and complicated. There have been many turning points, for good and ill. This is another turning point.
Let me be clear: we seek a future of cooperative engagement with the Russian government, and friendship with the Russian people. We want Russia to play its rightful role as a great nation - but with that role comes the responsibility to act as a force for progress in this new century, not regression to the conflicts of the past. That is why the United States and the international community must speak out strongly against this aggression, and for peace and security.