The international community should take measures to prevent “a deepening conflict” in Akhalgori, MP Givi Targamadze of the ruling party, said on October 20.
“We have warned the international community that Akhalgori would certainly become a source of a new conflict,” MP Targamadze, who chairs the parliamentary committee for defense and security, told journalists. “Now, the signs of that are quite obvious. The international community should take decisive measures before this conflict deepens further and becomes irreversible.
Some Georgian lawmakers, including MP Paata Davitaia, who chairs the parliamentary commission studying the causes of the August war, alleged on October 20 that the secessionist authorities in Akhalgori were intent on recruiting locals into the breakaway region’s army.
“The first stage involved passportization and if they [the local population] did not take the passports, they were forced to leave the territory. The second stage is recruitment and if they do not obey, they will be forced to leave Akhalgori. These are actually new facets of ethnic cleansing. It confirms once again that aggression has not stopped,” MP Davitaia said on October 20.
Akhalgori, administratively, was part of the former autonomous district of South Ossetia. Like some Georgian villages around Tskhinvali, Akhalgori district, however, was never under secessionist control before the August war.
Meanwhile, Eduard Kokoity, the South Ossetian secessionist leader, said on October 20 at a meeting with law enforcement officials that “tensions remain in Leningori” – referring to Akhalgori. The area was called Leningori during Soviet times, but was renamed by the Georgian authorities as Akhalgori after Tbilisi canceled the autonomous status of South Ossetia.
“Georgia has restarted provocative actions in the border areas,” Kokoity said, according to the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee. He claimed that shots were being fired almost every night at South Ossetian posts.
“And the international monitors [referring to the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia] are performing their duties in quite a strange way,” Kokoity continued. “It is obvious that they are biased, which does not help improve the situation; on the contrary, it destabilizes the situation.”
Alexander Lomaia, the secretary of the Georgian National Security Council, said that Tskhinvali wanted tension in order to prevent the EU monitoring mission from being able to cover the breakaway regions. EU monitors are currently deployed in the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“This escalation plays right into the hands of those who do not want EU monitors to implement their mandate of monitoring in Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” Lomaia told Reuters by telephone from Brussels. “Such declarations are made by those unwilling to see the return of (Georgian) refugees to their homes. This only whips up tension even more."
Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, who represented the United States at the Geneva talks, said on October 15 that Akhalgori remained “a problem” and “a potential flashpoint.”