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South Ossetia refuses to attend incident prevention meetings

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, July 10
The South Ossetian de facto authorities announced on July 8 that they would refrain from participation in all incident prevention mechanism meetings with the Georgian side until their demands about the chairing arrangements and locations of these meetings are fulfilled.

The meetings between the Georgian and South Ossetian de facto authorities were part of the incident prevention mechanism agreed during the negotiations in Geneva in February. Only two meetings in the frames of the mechanism have yet been conducted.

“We didn’t manage to agree at those meetings who will chair future ones,” stated Boris Chochiev, who represented South Ossetian de facto leader Eduard Kokoity at the meetings. In an interview published on the so-called South Ossetian Press Ministry’s webpage Chochiev noted that Tskhinvali proposed its own way of chairing meetings to the Georgian side. “We offered two options: either the representatives of Russia and the EU should chair the meetings, as they signed the Medvedev-Sarkozy [ceasefire] agreement, or each side should chair them in rotation. Neither of these proposals was accepted,” Chochiev said.

Chochiev underlined that these “options” were refused at the latest discussions in Geneva. “After that we offered a third option, for the meetings to be chaired alternately by the Georgian and South Ossetian sides, however none of these proposals have been accepted,” stated Chochiev, who said that the Georgian side insisted EU representatives chairing the meetings and was strongly against the South Ossetian delegation doing so.

Chochiev added that the place where the meetings were to be held was another question that worried Tskhinvali. “We have decided to reject participation in these meetings unless this issue is resolved,” concluded the South Ossetian separatists’ official.

The Georgian Interior Ministry has confirmed that the Tskhinvali authorities have refused to continue holding meetings on the administrative border of the region. Spokesperson for the Ministry Shota Utiashvili, who represented the Georgian side at the previous meetings, noted that the de facto authorities agreed on their format during the first talks and the Georgian side “is not going not change anything.” “We will not propose any alternative format for the meetings. We hope that the South Ossetian side will understand its responsibility and fulfil the obligation it agreed to take on during the Geneva discussions,” Utiashvili told The Messenger on July 9. He also didn’t exclude that the issue of the meetings will be raised at the next round of Geneva discussions in September.

A similar incident prevention mechanism is to be established in the other Georgian breakaway region, Abkhazia. The first meeting of this kind between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides, with the participation of the Russian military command on the ground, is scheduled to take place in the Abkhazian town of Gali, which is mostly populated by ethnic Georgians, on July 17.