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Russia's Terms for Pulling Back from ‘Buffer Zones’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 27 Aug.'08 / 22:08

Russia is ready to pull out its troops from the “security zones” if “reliable international control” is established there so as to prevent possible Georgian attacks on Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on August 27.

“Now with South Ossetia and Abkhazia’s independence already recognized by Russia, we have no intention of maintaining our peacekeepers outside those republics [on Georgia proper] forever,” Lavrov told journalists in the capital of Tajikistan, Dushanbe, on August 27.

“But at the same time we will insist on arranging reliable international control over those territories of Georgia, which are adjacent to the borders of those republics [referring to breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia], in order to prevent the preparation of new military adventures by the regime in Tbilisi,” Lavrov added.

He also said that Russia was ready to establish “practical cooperation” between Russian troops and international monitors in order “to agree on a regime within this zone.”

“With this aim in mind, we will be ready to make decisions, including in the United Nations and the OSCE, on additional increases in the number of international monitors, clarifying their mandate and possibly other steps with international participation, that might be needed to prevent new attacks on South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” Lavrov said. “As these agreements are reached, the Russian side will be ready to launch discussions on a timetable and other aspects to regulate control within the security zones.”

Russia currently maintains military outposts deep inside Georgian territory, well outside breakaway South Ossetia or Abkhazia, in particular in Senaki and Poti. They also control areas across the Abkhaz administrative border and north of the town of Gori. The closest Russian post to Gori is about five kilometers north in the village of Karaleti.

Russian officials calls these areas outside Abkhazia and South Ossetia “security zones” or “zones of responsibility of the Russian peacekeeping forces;” these areas are also referred to as buffer zones. Georgia insists the troops in these areas are occupiers, calling the areas occupied territory.

“Russia is violating the ceasefire accord by setting up these buffer, or security zones and by deploying checkpoints there,” Davit Bakradze, the parliamentary chairman, who is currently in the United States attending the Democratic National Convention in Denver, said on August 27.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who brokered the ceasefire accord between Tbilisi and Moscow, said on August 27 that the agreement “must be applied in full.”

“Military forces which have not yet withdrawn to the lines preceding the launch of hostilities must move without delay,” Reuters quoted Sarkozy as saying at a meeting with France’s top diplomats.

He also said that Russia’s decision to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia was aimed at changing Georgia’s borders “unilaterally, [and] is simply unacceptable.”

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