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Controversy over EU Monitors Deployment Area
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 10 Sep.'08 / 17:47

President Saakashvili and his French counterpart, Nicolas Sarkozy, at a news conference in Tbilisi after midnight on September 9. Saakashvili shows a document addressed to him and signed by President Sarkozy and  European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. Photo: InterPressNews

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on September 10 that EU monitors would only be deployed in areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia and not inside the two regions.

Georgia, however, said the EU monitors would be able to monitor the situation inside the two breakaway regions.

And EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana said, as quoted by AFP, on September 10 that the EU observer mission “will be deployed [in Georgia] with the spirit that it can deploy everywhere.” He, however, also said that initially the EU observers would deploy on the basis of "the accords signed Monday" in Moscow.

French and Russian versions of the agreement, as well as the Georgian translation, which was posted on the Georgian Foreign Ministry website, read: “The full withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia to pre-conflict lines. This process of withdrawal shall be carried out within 10 days after the deployment in these zones of international mechanisms involving no less than 200 EU observers, which shall take place no later than October 1, 2008, considering the existence of legally binding documents that guarantee non-usage of force against Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released on September 10: “During the negotiations held upon the EU initiative [a reference to talks in Moscow on September 8] the area of deployment of the international monitors has been defined – the entire territory of Georgia; in the first stage it will be areas adjacent to the conflict regions [Abkhazia and South Ossetia] and in the next [stage] Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”

The agreement signed in Moscow does not say anything about “first” or “next” stages of deployment. Officials in Tbilisi, however, are making a reference to a letter/statement addressed to President Saakashvili jointly by President Sarkozy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso.

The document, which was unveiled by the Georgian side during the visit of Sarkozy and Barroso to Tbilisi, reads that the French and European Commission presidents “reaffirm that the EU is standing ready to deploy observers throughout Georgian territory.”

At a joint news conference with President Sarkozy in Tbilisi after midnight on September 9, President Saakashvili showed the document to journalists and said EU observers would “step-by-step” cover the entire territory of Georgia, including South Ossetia.

Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov blasted such an interpretation of the agreement and said for Moscow “what happened in Tbilisi, what was discussed in Tbilisi, has absolutely no significance.”

“We have no interest in the pieces of paper which Mr. Saakashvili takes out of his pocket and shows to journalists,” Lavrov said.

He also said that such an interpretation was “a completely unscrupulous attempt not to honestly explain to Saakashvili what commitments the EU had taken.”

The only international observers, which can be deployed inside Abkhazia and South Ossetia, are in fact those of the UN and OSCE, respectively.

The document reads: “UN monitors in Georgia will continue to carry out their mandate in the area of their responsibility in accordance with the number and scheme of dislocation, as it was before August 7, 2008 without prejudice to possible corrections in future through a decision of the UN Security Council.”

And in respect of OSCE observers, it reads: “The OSCE monitors will continue to carry out their mandate in the area of their responsibility in accordance with the number and scheme of dislocation, as it was before August 7, 2008  without prejudice to possible corrections in future through a decision of the OSCE Permanent Council.”

The OSCE had eight unarmed military monitors in Tskhinvali before the hostilities, who were charged with observing the situation on the ground within a 15-km radius around the breakaway South Ossetian capital.

Lavrov, however, said on September 10 that the future mandates of the OSCE and UN observers would need the consent of Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.

“The mandates of the OSCE and UN observers, from now on, need to be agreed with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and they [the mandates] should be adapted; relevant bodies of structures of the UN Security Council and OSCE will deal with it,” Lavrov said.

Meanwhile, Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh said in an interview with the Russian state-run newspaper, Rosiiskaya Gazeta, published on September 10, that Sokhumi would insist on renaming the UN mission, which is now called the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG).

“I talked with their [UNOMIG] leadership recently and I asked them: now, taking into account the recent recognition, where are you – in Georgia or in Abkhazia? I asked them to push the issue [of renaming] in the UN,” Bagapsh said, adding that Sokhumi would coordinate with Moscow on the issue.

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