EUMM appeals for dialogue
By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, November 19
The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia has said that it regrets the unwillingness of the South Ossetian side to participate in Incident Prevention Mechanism meeting on November 19.
“Continued dialogue is the only way forward”, Head of EUMM Ambassador Hansjorg Haber has stated. “Despite the frustration caused by procedural divergences challenging the effectiveness of the mechanism, all participants should value the significance of this forum as an instrument to exchange information and to deal with concrete cases on the ground,” he added on November 18.
The decision to pause participation in the routine Incident Prevention Mechanism meetings was announced by representative of South Ossetian separatists’ leader on conflict issues Boris Chochiev on November 17 in Tskhinvali. Chochiev announced that the South Ossetian side will not meet Georgian and EU representatives until it gets information on “South Ossetian kidnapped citizens.” The Tskhinvali de facto authorities claim that five of its residents are being detained by Georgian law enforcers.
Meanwhile the separatists are still holding four Georgian teenagers detained by Russian border guards on November 4. The underage Georgians are accused of “violation of the South Ossetian border” and “illegal possession of firearms and explosives,” both claims denied by the Georgian side. What will happen to them is still unclear, despite numerous appeals from Tbilisi and international organisations. According to Chochiev, “the issue of the detained should be finally resolved. We should exchange the captured – all for all.”
EUMM noted that it is worried by the cessation of negotiations. “We call on all participants to fulfill their responsibilities towards the civilian population exposed to the problems of the post-conflict situation and we encourage them to return to the talks as soon as possible,” stated Haber. Regular exchanges among Georgian, Russian, South Ossetian, OSCE and EU participants within the framework of the Incident Prevention and Reaction Mechanism have helped bring home a number of people detained on both sides of the administrative boundary line. “We hope that the mechanism will be in a position to keep performing this important role”, the mission’s head added.
The European mission, which has performed monitoring in Georgia for more than a year already, has introduced a new form of observation into the conflict regions, which it has been prevented from entering - EUMM plans to use EU satellites to monitor movements of weapons and construction activities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. At a meeting in Brussels on November 17, EU Foreign Ministers welcomed the EU Satellite Centre’s (EUSC) “increasing role in support” of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia.
Hansjorg Haber said on November 13 that the mission had already obtained access to satellite imagery of Georgia’s breakaway regions through cooperation with the EUSC. However he also said, “satellite pictures cannot tell you everything; they cannot entirely replace monitoring on the ground.” The EU External Relations Council’s conclusions, released after the Foreign Ministers meeting on November 17, reiterated the EU’s support for the full implementation of EUMM’s “countrywide mandate, including access to the de facto entities.”
“While expressing its continued commitment to Georgia's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity as well as to the principal of the non-use of force, the Council emphasised the importance of measures to further build confidence among the parties, including taking advantage of the agreed Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM),” the EU External Relations Council’s document says.