EU, UN and OSCE visit to Tskhinvali blocked
By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, May 6
The visit of the special representatives of the EU, UN and OSCE (Pierre Morel, Johan Verbeke and Charalampos Christopoulos respectively) to Tskhinvali on May 5, ahead of the next round of Geneva talks, has not taken place, Rustavi 2 TV reported on Tuesday based on the statements of the de facto authorities. The de facto South Ossetian authorities insisted that the foreign diplomats could not enter the territory of Georgia’s breakaway region in OSCE vehicles, as this organization does not operate on the territory of the de facto republic. Following this demand, no meeting was held.
The de facto South Ossetian Press and Information Committee reported that according to the special representative of the de facto President of South Ossetia on Post-Conflict Regulation, Boris Chochiev, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the self-proclaimed South Ossetian Republic had received a letter from EU special representative Pierre Morel stating that he and the other envoys wanted to visit Tskhinvali “to discuss issues related to the next round of Geneva talks.” Boris Chochiev noted that the de facto South Ossetian Foreign Ministry had offered to provide transport for the foreign diplomats.
“During their last visit to Tskhinvali on March 31 this issue was discussed, and we decided with Pierre Morel that during his next visit an OSCE vehicle could not be used, as this organization does not work in our state. It appeared to us that we had reached an agreement then, but now this issue is being politicized,” the de facto South Ossetian Press and Information Committee website quoted Chochiev as saying. “Considering that this visit was scheduled at their own request, we will be happy to it if they accept the preconditions laid down by our state. However if they do not agree to these preconditions and do not come, we will not regard this as a great tragedy,” Chochiev stated.
On March 4 the special representatives visited Sokhumi and met the de facto Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba. According to the de facto Minister, the sides discussed issues related to the upcoming Geneva talks. Shamba stressed the de facto republic’s willingness to see an international presence in Abkhazia, but noted that “the position of the international mediators should be formed based on existing realities, ignoring which puts the objectivity of the international structures in doubt and poses a threat to the whole peacekeeping process.” Shamba noted that the Abkhazian side’s participation in the Geneva discussions will greatly depend on the report of the UN Secretary General on the situation in Abkhazia on May 15.
“In the event of the lack of an objective assessment of the current reality in the report of the Secretary General, we will question the further prospects and expediency of continuing with the Geneva talks and the participation of Abkhazian representatives in them,” the Apsnypress news agency quoted Shamba as saying. “If the UN takes into account the changed situation, Abkhazia is not referred to as a part of Georgia and the UN mission is not called the monitoring mission in Georgia, we will take part in the Geneva consultations,” the de facto Minister stated after the closed door meeting.
At the same time Sergey Shamba noted that there are some “positive aspects” to the Abkhazian side’s participation in the talks. “Taking part in international discussions is an indicator of our recognition in the international arena. We are interested in participating [in the talks] but not at the expense of harming the interests of our country and our nation,” the de facto Foreign Minster said.
Georgian state officials were not available for comment.