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Russian position still not clear

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, May 14
The question of the prolongation of the OSCE monitoring mission in Georgia’s mandate was discussed in Vienna on May 13. An OSCE spokesperson told The Messenger that the decision on this will be announced on May 14.

The issue should have been discussed on May 12, however the Russian side asked for a 24 hour delay to “receive directives from Moscow” before discussing it. The Georgian media reports that all OSCE countries except Russia support the proposition of the OSCE chair country Greece, which states that the mission should be prolonged but its title changed from ‘OSCE mission in Georgia’ to ‘OSCE mission in Georgia and the former South Ossetian autonomous district.’ The authors of the proposal say that this compromise should satisfy the Russian side, which objects to the prolongation of the current mission, saying that the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia should have separate missions because Russia has recognized them as independent counties. Under the revised monitoring plan twenty two monitors will be based in the Georgian village of Karaleti and eight in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

The Greek proposal is supported by Georgia too. “This draft proposal doesn’t cross our red lines,” stated Georgian State Minister on reintegration Temur Yakobashvili on Wednesday. “By red lines I mean the territorial integrity of Georgia and related issues. A completely separate mission [for South Ossetia] is unacceptable but this proposal is maximally balanced,” added the Minister.

The South Ossetian separatist regime has stated that it would be “impossible” to continue with the previous format of the mission. “We propose to open a special OSCE mission in South Ossetia that will be directly managed from Vienna. This means it is completely unacceptable for us to have an OSCE mission working in South Ossetia which is part of the OSCE mission in Georgia,” said de facto South Ossetian Foreign Minister Murat Jioev on May 13. The Georgian breakaway republic accused the OSCE of making an “inadequate” evaluation of the August conflict. However it stated that “South Ossetia is ready for cooperation with international organizations.”

The Georgian side has stated that the inflexible position of Russia on the prolongation of the OSCE mission in Georgia is explained by the unwillingness of the Russian government to acknowledge the “illegal activities” Russia is undertaking on the territory of South Ossetia. “How can Russia agree to let the OSCE mission enter South Ossetia, when this mission will see the illegal military bases Russia has built there in Java and Tskhinvali and witness the humanitarian catastrophe the region is facing because of the occupation?” asked Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, speaking to Georgian journalists before the summit in Vienna on May 13.

The OSCE mission in Georgia was suspended on January 1 after Russia blocked the prolongation of its mandate. On February 12, the organization voted for a “technical continuation” of the mandate of twenty military observers, but this removed their right to conduct monitoring on the territory of breakaway South Ossetia. Russia welcomed this decision, stating that it would help ensure “the security of South Ossetia.”

Another international organization conducting military monitoring in the conflict zone, the EU monitoring mission (EUMM), supports the prolongation of the OSCE mandate. “It’s impossible to create a separate mission there [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia] because the EU doesn’t recognize them as independent states,” stated the head of EUMM Hansjorg Haber. Speaking on Russian Echo Moskvy on May 13, Haber appealed to both South Ossetia and Abkhazia to allow European structures to conduct monitoring on the territories controlled by de facto authorities. “The Ossetian and Abkhazian sides may not agree with our point of view, but this will further peace and trust in the region,” added the head of the EUMM.