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Tbilisi asks for US observers

By Temuri Kiguradze
Tuesday, July 21
The Georgian authorities are holding negotiations with the US Government about including American observers in the European Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia. The sides are holding “preliminary talks” on this issue, stated Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, as quoted by Reuters news agency, on July 21.

"It would mean including third parties in the mission," Bokeria added. He noted that he "would not rule out" Turkey also participating in the mission.

Tbilisi’s will to bring US monitors to Georgia was also mentioned by the Secretary of Georgia’s Security Council Eka Tkeshelashvili. Speaking to The New York Times she noted that the involvement of US representatives in the monitoring process in Georgia would make it “politically very costly to Russia to do anything on the ground.”

At present EUMM is the only international observer mission in Georgia. It conducts monitoring of the areas close to the Georgian conflict zones. Despite the fact that the mandate of the mission covers Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the separatist authorities and Russian troops refuse to allow European monitors to enter these regions. The other observer missions – the OSCE and UNOMIG missions in Georgia – were forced to withdraw in 2009 after Russia vetoed the extension of their mandates. The Kremlin justified this decision by stating that “new realities” have been created in the South Caucasus after the August war and the recognition of Georgia’s breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Russia.

After Russia’s veto of the OSCE and UNOMIG missions, the Georgian authorities announced they were seeking to expand EUMM. Speaking at a press conference in Tbilisi in June, the Georgian Foreign Minister noted that despite the fact Georgia regrets the UN mission’s withdrawal from the country it had already prepared an alternative plan to give international observers the right to work in the breakaway regions, but he refrained from talking about details of this plan.

Commenting on the possibility of American observers taking part in the monitoring operations close to the conflict zones, Georgian conflict expert Malkhaz Chemia noted that this shows that “control of the situation in Georgia is very important for the current American administration, just like it was during Bush’s term of office. The difference is that Obama’s diplomats are acting in a more cautious way,” stated the analyst, speaking to The Messenger on July 21. Chemia considered that despite the statements of the Georgian Government it is almost impossible that the observers will be allowed into the territories controlled by the Russian and separatist forces. “Let’s be frank, there are Russian military bases there and the Russians will never let any international observers enter those bases, however the mere presence of American monitors right on the border of that territory is still quite a big pressure on Russia, it can create conditions for the future dealings between them,” concluded the expert.