Credit: Corey Flintoff, Alice Kreit/NPR
Russia and Georgia have agreed in principle to a cease-fire, French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Tuesday after the two sides fought for days inside Georgian territory.
Sarkozy, who is acting as a mediator, told journalists in Moscow after meeting Russian President Dmitri Medvedev that the two sides had not agreed to a peace deal, but only to a provisional cease-fire. It was unclear how any agreement would play out on the ground.
"We have tried to find solutions on paper that would allow us short-term means to achieve an agreement so that there will be a definite cessation of hostilities," he said.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the two sides to end hostilities.
"I believe that they believe that they have made some progress and we welcome that and we certainly welcome the EU mediation," Rice told reporters at the White House after briefing President Bush on Sarkozy's efforts on behalf of the European Union to mediate a resolution.
The conflict was triggered Thursday when Georgian forces moved to seize control of the Russian-backed separatist province of South Ossetia, which had been nominally outside of Tbilisi's control since 1992. Moscow's forces moved in a day later to assist the breakaway province. In recent days, it has sent tanks, troops and airplanes into Georgia proper.
Sarkozy's shuttle diplomacy was preceded earlier Tuesday by a statement from Medvedev on national television that the Russian military was being called off the attack.
"The aggressor has been punished and suffered very significant losses. Its military has been disorganized," Medvedev said.
However, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said Russian planes were still pounding villages outside South Ossetia hours after Medvedev's statement.
The White House has expressed deep concern over the conflict and said it rejected a Russian demand that Saakashvili step down. President Bush has been in touch with leaders in Europe over options for dealing with the Russian incursion.
From staff and wire reports.