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We want to stay, says OSCE

By Etuna Tsotniashvili
Tuesday, March 24
If the OSCE withdraws, the whole Geneva process could be undermined OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, stated on March 23 after a meeting with Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze.

"If the OSCE withdraws, the Geneva process could be affected," the Minister said. “It could be seriously at risk. I am convinced that there is no one who would like to see such a negative development emerging,” she added. She also said she hoped the joint incident prevention and response mechanisms agreed in Geneva could be implemented quickly.

She said the Greek Chairmanship is intensively negotiating in an attempt to find a mutually acceptable solution to the present problems which would allow a continued OSCE presence in Georgia. The OSCE tries very hard to reach “a solution based on the fundamental values and principles of our organization – respect of territorial integrity and respect for reaching solutions through dialogue, diplomacy and compromise,” Bakoyannis said.

Bakoyannis stated that the situation on the ground remains unstable and this creates boundaries and challenges that need to be addressed. “But I strongly believe that we need more and not less OSCE presence in the region. This is the immediate priority of the Greek Chairmanship,” she stated.

The Greek Foreign Minister highlighted that despite the fact they strongly support the EU presence in Georgia, the EU cannot replace OSCE. “Our final word is that the European Union cannot, and should not, remain alone on the ground. The EU can’t replace the OSCE. As you know we strongly support the EU presence as well, but it can’t replace the OSCE. With this in mind I want to reiterate that we will spare no effort to find a consensus solution,” Bakoyannis stated, adding that all the sides should show “flexibility” to secure a continuation of the OSCE presence in Georgia. “The only way to do this is to depoliticize the debate and focus on the practical necessity of a robust OSCE presence… Flexibility on all sides is the key word,” she stated.

Bakoyannis welcomed Tbilisi's constructive approach to the OSCE’s proposals. "We discussed all our initiatives on prolongation of the OSCE mandate in Georgia with Minister Vashadze. This talk was constructive and the Georgian side fully understood our position," Bakoyannis stated. Vashadze added that the OSCE proposal contains reasonable compromises for all sides and added that Georgia supports the preservation of the OSCE mission in the country. “We fully support the idea of the preservation of the OSCE mission in Georgia and are ready to assist in this matter,” Vashadze said.

During her one-day visit to Tbilisi, the Minister also met Prime Minister Nika Gilauri and Temur Iakobashvili, the State Minister for Reintegration. Bakoyannis also met opposition representatives and staff of the OSCE's Mission to Georgia, stressing the OSCE staff’s professionalism and loyalty.

The OSCE Mission to Georgia is now in the process of closing its office after Russia vetoed the mission’s mandate in December, 2008, insisting that OSCE cover Georgia’s breakaway region South Ossetia [recognised by Russia as an independent state together with Abkhazia] independently from the Tbilisi office, although the Georgian side strongly opposes this.

Prior to this meeting, at a weekly briefing yesterday, Vashadze responded to Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov’s statement about Russia’s wish to change the Georgian authorities and stated that Moscow will have to deal with the current Georgian Government until 2013, when Mikheil Saakashvili’s Presidential term expires.

“I want to calm Mr. Lavrov down: the existing leadership has been democratically elected by the Georgian people and Russia will have to deal with it until 2013,” he said, adding that if Russia is able to find a supporter among the Georgian political forces it will of course do this to further its intentions.