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Tagliavini meets de facto South Ossetian leader

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, March 9
The EU-sponsored war commission chaired by Swiss Diplomat and former UN special representative in Georgia Heidi Tagliavini visited de facto South Ossetia on March 6. The representatives of the international fact finding mission, which has been established to examine the causes of the 5-day Georgian-Russian war in August 2008 and investigate cases of human rights violations during the conflict, met the de facto President of South Ossetia Eduard Kokoity, representatives of the de facto South Ossetian Foreign Ministry and their law enforcement agencies.

The separatist authorities expressed their readiness to cooperate with the mission. “We are ready for cooperation and for transparent relations, which will help strengthen peace and stability in the region and also prevent a repetition of the tragedy which happened in August,” Eduard Kokoity told Tagliavini during the meeting, adding, “I hope that all the facts of the start of Georgian aggression against South Ossetia will be investigated objectively.”

Speaking to the head of the mission, Kokoity accused the Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili of “increasing tensions in the region,” saying “with the arrival of Saakashvili in office, ignoring the Dagomis agreements started.” Talking about the reasons for the conflict escalation in August, Kokoity gave Saakashvili’s refusal to sign a memorandum about not using force as a main reason.

The separatist leader slammed European observers for making the situation in the conflict zone more complex. “We consider the work of the European observers as weak, very weak. At the moment there are 35 armed Georgian checkpoints in the zone of responsibility of the European monitors. Overall there are 2,500 armed men in the conflict zone from the Georgian side,” Kokoity noted. “Armed Georgians are building new firing positions in the presence of international monitors, which is a serious violation of the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement. The whole responsibility for the disruption of the agreement is on the Georgian side and on the European observers, who are not trying to influence the Georgian side,” the Osinform news agency quoted Kokoity as saying.

The de facto South Ossetian President touched upon the issue of the Geneva talks, saying that the South Ossetian side “welcomes the negotiations in Geneva.” However, Kokoity noted that the South Ossetians face “bias and misunderstanding” at the talks. “Today the EU and OSCE need to rehabilitate themselves in the eyes of the South Ossetian people. They bear the responsibility for the events of August 2008 at the same level Georgia does,” Kokoity stated.

Tagliavini said the mission will look into all the materials handed in by the South Ossetian side. “It is about the origins and the causes, the causes and the development of the conflict in August, but it is also about all legal aspects, not only all breaches of conventions which happened in the course of this conflict but also violations of human rights and humanitarian law,” she told Kokoity.

When answering a question of South Ossetian journalists about the practical results of the investigation and possible sanctions against people who committed ethnic cleansing and other war crimes, Tagliavini said this is not dependent on her. “Our mission is called an independent international mission for studying the conflict. We should present a report to the people who ordered it. It was the EU who demanded it, and what the EU will do with this report is not dependent on me. I do not know anything about this,” she told the journalists.

The EU launched the August war probe last December. The fact finding mission consists of military and legal experts. The mission is due to present its report on the Russian-Georgian conflict to the participants of the conflict, the EU and the OSCE by the end of the July. However this deadline might be extended if needed.