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Incident prevention meeting held in Ergneti

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, September 4
The fourth meeting between the Georgian, South Ossetian and Russian sides within the framework of the incident prevention mechanism agreed at Geneva was held in the village of Ergneti at the administrative border with South Ossetia yesterday. According to the Head of the Analytical Department of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs Shota Utiashvili, who represented the Georgian side at the meeting, the issue of 6 detained Georgians was raised. Utiashvili said that the Georgians side had demanded the release of the six, detained on August 31 by Ossetian militia for allegedly “smuggling” timber from South Ossetia. He added however that no specific agreement had been achieved on that issue.

Hansjorg Haber, the head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, which facilitates the meetings, stressed the necessity of giving freedom of movement to ethnic Georgians at the administrative border in order for them to visit the graves of their family members. “It is very important that the people have opportunity to bury their relatives and then visit their graves. I hope that the religious issues will be solved in the near future,” the Georgian media quoted Haber as saying. Haber was referring to the situation under which Georgians are unable to visit the cemeteries attached to churches now run by Ossetians.

The South Ossetian side demanded the release of “citizens” of the breakaway region allegedly imprisoned in Georgian jails. Merab Chigoev, the head of the de facto South Ossetian delegation in Ergneti, said the Ossetian side will “constantly” raise this issue until it is resolved. Speaking to journalists before the meeting, Chigoev stated that the issue of the Chairmanship of the meetings has yet to be decided.

“Because of this the work of our groups is hindered. There is no special body responsible for the quality of the meetings, for arranging documents and for supervising whether the sides are fulfilling the commitments taken by them. Therefore there is a vacuum after these meetings and it is not clear who is responsible for what and who is fulfilling what,” Chigoev stated, adding that because of this the work of the groups is not “of as good quality as it could have been.”

The decision to hold joint meetings on incident prevention was taken at the fourth round of talks in Geneva on February 18, 2009. The sides agreed that “in the interests of furthering peace, stability and security, and with due attention to the provisions of the six-point agreement of August 12 and subsequent implementing measures of September 8, joint mechanisms with the relevant participants are required in order to prevent and, where necessary, respond to incidents that could cause suffering to civilian populations and/or risk of deterioration of the situation.”