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Separatist authorities opposed to US observers joining mission

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, July 23
The Abkhazian and South Ossetian de facto authorities announced on July 22 that the possible appearance of US observers in Georgia will not help improve the situation in the conflict zones.

“The EU mission is operating on the Georgian territories bordering Abkhazia and South Ossetia in accordance with Sarkozy-Medvedev ceasefire agreement, in which the presence of Americans in the EU monitoring mission (EUMM) is not considered at all,” stated de facto Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba, as quoted by Russian news agency Interfax, on July 22. In his statement Shamba accused the US of assisting Georgia during the August Russian-Georgian war. “There [in Georgia] were military advisers and trainers instructing and providing weapons for the Georgian Army, stating that this was being done to provide internal security [for Georgia], while in reality this army was used to conduct aggression against Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 1992, 2001, 2006 and 2008,” stated the de facto Minister, adding that “with an American presence in Georgia we [Abkhazia] can’t have any guarantees that there will be no provocations.”

The de facto Government of the other Georgian breakaway province, South Ossetia, also declared that it protested against the possibility of US monitoring being undertaken close to the administrative borders. Boris Chochiev, a representative of South Ossetia’s de facto leader Eduard Kokoity, stated that the deployment of US monitors would “violate” the ceasefire agreement. “The Americans are actively working in Georgia. It’s quite hard to expect the West to take any action for the peaceful regulation of Georgian-Ossetian relations. Now Georgia considers that Western observers will help them conduct monitoring inside South Ossetia,” stated Chochiev, as quoted by the South Ossetian de facto Press Ministry. Chochiev underlined that “neither EU monitors nor Western ever have conducted, or ever will conduct, monitoring here [in South Ossetia].”

Reports that negotiations were taking place between the US and Georgia about the possible participation of US representatives in monitoring operations in Georgia were spread past week. Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria stated that the US and Georgia are holding “preliminary talks” on this issue. "It would mean including third parties in the mission," he added, as quoted by the Reuters news agency on July 21. Bokeria also noted that he "would not rule out" Turkey, which is a NATO member state, participating in the observer mission.

The Secretary of Georgia’s Security Council, Eka Tkeshelashvili, speaking to The New York Times, noted if US representatives joined the EU observer missions this would make it “politically very costly for Russia to do anything on the ground.” Speaking to journalists in Brussels on Tuesday, Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt said that he hoped to get EU backing to extend the bloc's peace monitoring mission in Georgia, whose mandate expires in September 2009, for another year. Bildt says he is also open to Georgian requests that the US helps monitor Georgia's boundaries with South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

At present the 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.