DES MOINES, Iowa (CNN) – John McCain and Barack Obama on Friday condemned the outbreak of violence in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia, calling on the United Nations Security Council to convene an emergency session - but the presumptive Republican nominee went further than his fall rival in assigning blame to Russia for the escalating hostilities.
"Russia should immediately and unconditionally cease its military operations and withdraw all forces from sovereign Georgian territory,” McCain said in a statement to reporters shortly after his campaign plane landed in Iowa.
“The consequences of Euro Atlantic stability and security are grave,” he added.
He also called for “a truly independent” international peacekeeping force for South Ossetia, and said the United States should work with the European Union and the OSCE to pressure Russia to halt its military efforts.
McCain has been a sharp critic of the policies of the Russian government headed by Vladimir Putin.
In a statement sent to reporters, Barack Obama called for an end to the violence, but stopped short of assigning blame, or making strong demands on Moscow. “I strongly condemn the outbreak of violence in Georgia, and urge an immediate end to armed conflict," he said.
"Now is the time for Georgia and Russia to show restraint, and to avoid an escalation to full scale war. Georgia’s territorial integrity must be respected. All sides should enter into direct talks on behalf of stability in Georgia, and the United States, the United Nations Security Council, and the international community should fully support a peaceful resolution to this crisis.”
Russia sent troops into the region Friday to defend South Ossetia from Georgian troops battling separatist forces there.
South Ossetia is a pro-Russian enclave of Georgia that has sought independence for years, and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has supported the region’s local government.
Georgia is a close ally of the United States.