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Georgian soldiers will be more careful near the conflict zones

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, January 28
The Georgian Defence Ministry and the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) to Georgia have agreed on “certain restrictions” on the movement of Georgian servicemen in the areas close to the administrative borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. A memorandum concerning this was signed on January 26 in Tbilisi.

The Memorandum of Understanding, signed by Defence Minister Davit Sikharulidze and EUMM head Hansjorg Haber, also obliges the Georgian side to provide EUMM with advance information of any plans to move military units within these areas. “[The Memorandum] contributes to the implementation of Point One of the six point [ceasefire] plan, which requires that there will be no recourse to force,” the EUMM said in a statement published on its official webpage on January 27.

Hansjorg Haber, said that by making a commitment that its forces would operate transparently, “the Georgian Government makes a brave and unilateral move to deescalate and forestall tensions along the administrative boundary lines. As long as this agreement is in force, EUMM will be able to issue, as it were, a clean bill of health to the effect that Georgia will not be able to assemble a force with sufficient escalation potential to militarily challenge the administrative boundary lines,” Haber said.

Haber noted that Russia should also follow this principle of transparency to prevent the incidents and provocations which have became a constant reality in the areas near the administrative borders. “If Russia decides to reciprocate, I am sure that even more security and stability is possible along the administrative boundary lines. Russia should provide clarity about the total strength of its forces within Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and thin out its forces in the immediate vicinity of the administrative boundary lines,” Haber said. The head of the EUMM said that the memorandum in no way meant “a diplomatic recognition of the status quo.”

South Ossetian and Abkhazian separatists and Russian officials have several times accused the Georgian Army of concentrating military forces near the administrative borders with the breakaway republics. In late December 2008 EUMM said it was concerned about the deployment of Cobra armoured Georgian police vehicles in the areas close to the South Ossetian and Abkhazian administrative borders. Hansjorg Haber said that although the deployment of these vehicles “is not in violation of the relevant provisions of the ceasefire plan, EUMM has consistently advised against the deployment of these military-type vehicles because it firmly believes that they will not contribute to enhancing the security situation on the ground.”