EU Ambassador calls tension on Georgia’s occupation line “unacceptable”

The ambassador of the EU to Georgia called “unacceptable” on Friday (30 August) the tensions and confrontational language at the “border” between Georgia and its occupied territory of South Ossetia.

Ambassador Carl Hartzell twitted that he expects that “all sides” would show maximum restraint and use their influence to ensure that the situation doesn’t escalate.

At the same time, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over what it said were “provocations” of the Russia-sponsored occupation regime in South Ossetia, including mobilisation of military equipment and personnel.

Following the Russia-Georgia war in August 2018, Georgia’s regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been controlled by Russia-sponsored regimes.

Reportedly, Russia has between 9,000 and 10,000 soldiers on both breakaway territories, which in South Ossetia amounts to one soldier for every eight residents.

The EU has an unarmed civilian monitoring mission dubbed EUMM, deployed since September 2008, following the EU-mediated Six Point Agreement that ended the August war. Headquartered in Tbilisi, it comprises 200 monitors from EU member states who patrol areas in adjacent Abkhazia and South Ossetia but cannot enter those territories.

Russia has recognised South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Nicaragua, Venezuela, Nauru, and more recently Syria are the only other countries to have recognised the two.

Latest reports speak of the setting up of a new checkpoint by Georgia near the village of Tsnelisi (Uista).

Tsnelisi is almost entirely controlled by South Ossetian forces and is separated from the Georgian government-controlled village of Chorchana by a forested buffer zone.

Before that, it was reported that the Russia-sponsored authorities of South Ossetia were erecting fences, in the vicinity of Gugutiantkari village.

EU foreign affairs chief Federica Mogherini spoke on 21 August with the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Georgia, David Zalkalian, and the two agreed that the erection of fences hinders the freedom of movement of the local population and will deprive them of access to orchards and water resources, which are key to their livelihoods.

On Wednesday, Georgia’s State Security Service accused South Ossetian authorities of carrying out a ‘provocative’ mobilisation of armoured vehicles near the village of Chorchana.

On Friday the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern about the mobilisation of military equipment and personnel by the occupation forces at the occupation line, close to Chorchana.

“Such destructive actions, as wells as the totally unacceptable statements of the leaders of the occupation regime, represent yet another provocation, which further aggravates the security environment and aims at destabilising the situation”, the Georgian ministry stated.

It added that Georgia fully complies with the undertaken commitments and continues to inform the international community about the developments on the ground, working closely with the Co-chairmen of the Geneva International Discussions, the EUMM and the diplomatic corps accredited in Tbilisi.

The Geneva International Discussions (GID) are international talks launched in Geneva in October 2008, to address the consequences of the 2008 conflict in Georgia. Co-chaired by the OSCE, the EU and the UN, the Geneva process brings together representatives of the participants of the conflict—Georgia, Russia, and Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia—as well as the United States.

Georgia also says it raised the issue at a meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism in Ergneti on the 29 August.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia calls on the Russian Federation to cease what it calls illegal actions and implement its international commitments, respecting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia.

Tbilisi also calls on the international community “to give due reaction to the illegal developments at the occupation line and take the relevant measures to ensure these actions are ceased”.

Mogherini’s spokesperson Maja Kocijancic told EURACTIV the EU was following the situation very closely and repeated the language used by ambassador Hartzell. Diplomatic sources confirmed that the recent developments at the occupation line of Georgia were becoming a matter of serious concern for the EU.

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