A UN delegation is touring South Ossetia to assess the damage caused during clashes between Georgian and Russian forces last month.
On the way to the capital Tskhinvali their convoy passed through the remnants of villages – once inhabited by Georgians – forced to flee from the fighting.
But as their mission bore witness to the devastation talks with Russia to send monitors from Europe’s security body, the OSCE broke down.
The main sticking point is the areas in which the observers would be allowed to operate.
Georgia’s OSCE envoy is blaming Russia for refusing to allow monitors past Russian army checkpoints into the rebel region arguing that it was now independent.
Meanwhile the American Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice warned Moscow it was deepening its isolation.
“I am referring, among other things, to Russia’s intimidation of its sovereign neighbour, its use of oil and gas as a political weapon, its unilateral suspension of the CFE Treaty, its threat to target peaceful nations with nuclear weapons, its arms sales to states and groups that threaten international security,” she said.
But the US Defence Secretary Robert Gates, in London for a meeting of Nato defence ministers adopted a more conciliatory tone, playing down calls for a robust military commitment in eastern Europe.
“We need to proceed with some caution,” he said, calling for the alliance to focus on traditional planning and exercise activities that “are not provocative and don’t tend to draw firm red lines or send signals that are unwanted”.