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EU envoy for South Caucasus and Crisis in Georgia leaves post

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, July 7
The European Union's (EU) Special Representative for the South Caucasus and Crisis in Georgia and a co-chair of Geneva International Discussions, German diplomat Herbert Salber, has officially left his post.

The information was released by the Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Georgia, Davit Dondua.

"In the final round of the Geneva Discussions, Mr. Salber said he was leaving the post and would continue working with Germany's ambassador,” he said.

Dondua added that Salber had made this decision earlier and he has now formally announced about it.

“However, he will remain in the post until August," Dondua explained.

EU representative Herbert Salber was involved in a scandal in May after he visited the Russian-backed breakaway region of South Ossetia on May 16.

During the meeting with the de facto authorities, he congratulated ‘President’ Anatoly Bibilov on his new ‘post’, taken after April 9 the so-called presidential elections. Salber also expressed his wish for further cooperation with the new ‘President’.

His words caused criticism from Georgian diplomats, opposition parties and the public, who demanded sanctions against the German diplomat and his removal from the Geneva Talks, where Georgian conflict issues are discussed.

Later, the Georgian Foreign Ministry summoned Salber for an explanation. He had met Davit Dondua and later made explanations to the media representatives as well.

“I would like to clarify that the EU fully supports Georgia's territorial integrity. This is a very clear and obvious principle for me and I, as a representative of the EU in the South Caucasus, support this principle,” Salber told reporters.

As for the ‘elections’ in Georgia's breakaway region of South Ossetia, Salber added that the EU has unequivocally declared that it does not recognize the framework in which the elections were held.

“I support this position. At the same time, the EU is committed to promoting peaceful resolution of the conflict. For this reason the EU and I are involved in the Geneva discussions. This is my mandate,” Salber added.

The Tskhinvali de facto government also responded to the issue. They said that Georgia’s policy with regards to Tskhinvali “is surprising and disappointing”.

“The diplomatic courtesy of Mr. Salber has been perceived by Georgia as a betrayal. It is clear that this hysteria in Georgia serves specific political goals. The Georgian leadership categorically objects the geopolitical reality and is trying to carry out a project they call the ‘Occupation of Georgian Territories’,” stated the de facto Foreign Ministry of South Ossetia.