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Tbilisi responds to Karasin’s statements

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, July 30
“The statement of the Russian senior official is a weak attempt to shirk responsibility for the threats caused by blocking the international mission mandates in Georgia by blaming this on the international community,” a note posted on the Georgian Foreign Ministry website on July 29 reads. “In fact, the policy pursued by Russia is the source of the maintaining and increasing of tensions in Georgia and in the whole region. It neglects international commitments and the opinion of international society and is stubbornly trying to justify the virtual reality created by Russia itself. It is time that the Russian side realised that any attempts of this kind are predestined to failure,” the Foreign Ministry statement continues.

The note is a response to Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigori Karasin’s statements of July 28. Karasin said that the prolongation of the European Union Monitoring Mission’s mandate in Georgia for one more year, was “a positive fact”. “For this region, the victim of Georgian aggression last year, stability is very important. EUMM, which was established last October based on the agreement between Medvedev and Sarkozy, will objectively promote this,” the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister said. Karasin noted that the EUMM is a deterrent against possible further aggression by Tbilisi against its breakaway regions. “The Russian side is ready for constructive cooperation with EUMM, which will of course be conducted within the framework of its mandate, of which we are very well aware,” he stated.

Karasin however criticised the terms of the European Council decision, which according to him is “full of terms and words which indicate that they want to continue playing a political game and ignoring the new realities created in the region after August 2008. They want to enter the territories of sovereign Abkhazia and Ossetia, however it is obvious even from the name of the mission that it is the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia. Tskhinvali and Sokhumi are negative about the European Union’s attempts to enter their territory,” Karasin said. The Deputy Minister expressed his regret at the suspension of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia but said it was obvious to everyone why this had happened. “At the very last moment the Western states blocked Russia’s practical proposals about continuing the international mission in the South Caucasus. They should blame only themselves for this,” Karasin said.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry states that Karasin’s comment that the EUMM’s mandate does not cover Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region is “false” and is yet another attempt to justify the fact that Russia will not allow EU monitors into Georgia’s occupied territories. “As for Mr. Karasin’s concerns that the EU does not explain in its decision the reason for the closure of the UN and OSCE missions, it should be mentioned that the international community does not need to be reminded what took place at the discussion over the continuation of the OSCE and UN missions in Georgia, when the consolidated position of the international community of maintaining these missions was undermined by Russia’s unacceptable position, which resulted in the blocking of the abovementioned missions in Georgia,” the Foreign Ministry statement reads. “It is obvious to the international community that it is Russia’s will to get rid of witnesses to its actions of turning the territories occupied as a result of military aggression in August 2008 into non-transparent black holes, increasing their militarisation and conducting ethnic cleansing and mass violations there, through the blocking of international missions’ activities in Georgia,” it suggests.

Meanwhile the Georgian media has reported that France has expressed an objection to Turkish or US monitors joining the EUMM. “Taking this step might become a reason for further provocations when the first anniversary of the August war is approaching. I don’t think it is an appropriate time to raise this issue,” French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has said at a meeting of EU Foreign Ministers in Brussels. According to EU, Italy, Cyprus and Belgium have supported Kouchner’s statement. The UK, Lithuania, Estonia and Poland are in favour of adding US and Turkish representatives to the mission. Sweden, which is currently the Chair of the EU, has postponed discussion of this issue till Autumn, the Georgian media has reported.

Some analysts agree with the French Foreign Minister. Expert on conflicts Makhaz Chemia has said that Turkey, which is doing its best to join the European Union, became very active after the August war in 2008. “After the Georgian-Russian conflict Turkey even presented its own plan for stability in the Caucasus. This plan was not very favourable to Russia and did not envisage a harmonious distribution of functions in the Caucasus with Russia. That’s why I agree with Kouchner’s fears that adding Turkish monitors to the EUMM might cause some complications in the region,” Chemia told The Messenger.