- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 13, 2008

24/7 DIPLOMACY

As Russian troops raged through Georgia, the country’s tiny diplomatic corps in Washington mounted a round-the-clock offensive to tell Georgia’s side of the story to administration officials, congressional contacts and journalists.

“The embassy has been working 24 hours a day,” Tamta Kupradze, the political officer, told Embassy Row on Tuesday. “We’ve made phone calls, held meetings, contacted the media to counter Russian propaganda.”

Georgian Ambassador Vasil Sikharulidze, who is also Georgia’s envoy to Canada, gave interviews to anyone who would listen, from Fox News to CNN to Canadian television.

He met with a U.S. government task force on Georgia and maintained regular telephone contacts with the State Department, Miss Kupradze said.

“There’s been no time to go home. We’ve been sleeping in the embassy,” she said. “These are the toughest days of my life.”

Miss Kupradze, who has been filling in for a vacationing press spokesman, said much of the early media coverage was biased because reporters were relating Russia’s version of the conflict that started over the breakaway, pro-Russian South Ossetia region of Georgia.

Of the embassy’s 10 diplomats, three returned earlier this summer for a vacation in Georgia and cannot get out of the country to return to Washington.

HOPE IN SUDAN

The U.S. special envoy to Sudan expressed a measure of hope Tuesday that the United Nations will meet its commitment to deploy an adequate number of peacekeepers to stop what President Bush has called the “genocide” against black Africans by Arab militias.

Washington remains disappointed by the current level of peacekeepers, but “we have reason to be encouraged and hopeful that the pace of the past will be reversed,” envoy Richard Williamson told reporters in Khartoum after meeting with Foreign Minister Deng Alor.

“The current trickle of added peacekeepers is very disappointing,” Mr. Williamson said. “Unfortunately, performance has not been acceptable to date. Unfortunately, the responsibility rests both here [in Sudan] and also with the United Nations.”

More than 8,000 troops and 1,700 police officers are operating in Sudan, which is far below the authorized level of 19,500 soldiers and 6,500 policemen, according to a U.N. spokesman. He said a vanguard of 350 Ethiopian soldiers is due next week to prepare for an entire battalion of about 1,000 troops.

The United Nations estimates that 300,000 people have been killed and 2.2 million displaced from their homes because of fighting in the Sudanese region of Darfur since 2003.

Mr. Williamson added that “the developments in 2008” have brought a “new focus and attention” to dispute within the Sudanese government. The most important of those developments was the World Court indictment of President Omar Bashir on war crimes charges.

“But let me emphasize, and this is terribly important: If we’re going to get a sustainable peace in Darfur, in the end the sovereign state of Sudan will have to address this issue,” Mr. Williamson added.

ARMENIA BOUND

Career diplomat Marie L. Yovanovitch is due to arrive in Armenia next month as the U.S. ambassador the Eurasian nation.

Miss Yovanovitch, who won Senate confirmation Aug. 1, is the former ambassador to Kyrgyzstan. She also has served as senior adviser to the undersecretary of state for political affairs and as deputy chief of mission at the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine.

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.