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Where the EU observers should be deployed

Tuesday, September 23
From October 1 EU observers will be deployed in Georgia. They are intended to substitute the Russian armed forces in the conflict zone.

The EU will send a 200-strong group of observers in the first instance. 20 countries will participate in the mission, but most observers will come from France, Germany and Italy. The problem is this. It is understood that the observers will be deployed only in the “Buffer Zones” on the Georgian side of the administrative border. The Russian occupiers don’t want to leave these places. On the contrary, they are building fortifications and reinforcing their checkpoints at some places in the Chkorotskhu and Sachkhere regions and near Gori as well. The observers will not enter the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia because Russia declares that they are no longer part of Georgia but “independent” states which have asked Moscow to deploy troops there, which is of course done by the Kremlin with much pleasure.

Georgian political analysts are urging the population not to be too optimistic about the arrival of the EU mission and not to think naively that this will mean the complete withdrawal of the occupation forces and the free return of the IDPs. Nothing of the sort will happen. We can see already that the Russians are not retreating. They are not allowing EU observers into the new “sovereign states,” because they believe those territories are theirs. Military bases are being built in both of them in a very hasty way.

Moscow is stubbornly refusing to follow the civilized route of honouring agreements and submitting to negotiations. It is just doing what it wants. For instance, the Kremlin has frustrated the sending of 80 OSCE observers into South Ossetia, as had been agreed earlier. Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov has made a most cynical statement about this, calling the OSCE mission an attempt to enter South Ossetia and later declare that it is Georgia. “This is an ideological game which threatens the Republic’s security,” he says. Lavrov is insisting that EU or OSCE observers should be deployed only along the Abkhazian and South Ossetian “borders” with Georgia so that Georgia will not attack these “countries.” No matter how much this restricted deployment would deviate from that stipulated in the agreements Russia has signed, it is what the world is currently allowing Russia to dictate regardless.

The Georgian authorities think that the withdrawal of the Russians from their “Buffer Zones” is an achievement which will facilitate the return of the civilian population to their original homes. They retain their optimism and hope that sooner or later the EU observers will be allowed onto the territory of breakaway regions. However it is clear that this will not be the case in the near future and God knows if it ever will be.

Political analyst Paata Zakareishvili thinks that Russia has confronted the whole civilized world and will not give up what it has gained by doing so, namely the opportunity to influence the Caucasus and which military bases will be allowed there. The EU will never recognize Georgia’s occupation or the puppet regimes Russia is supporting. But that is the limit of the EU’s political assistance. It will not help Georgia reoccupy its stolen territories.

Much will depend on the Geneva negotiations scheduled for October 15. These will presumably last for many weeks. Hopefully they will clear up many details of what has happened and should now happen and outline at least some possible scenarios.