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OSCE observers will stay in Georgia

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, February 13
The OCSE Permanent Council decided on February 12 to leave twenty unarmed observers in Georgia for four months at least.

The OSCE observers were deployed in Georgia after the August conflict, under the mandate of the OSCE mission in Georgia. The mandate of this mission was suspended after Russia’s December 2008 veto of its prolongation. Russia objected to the name of the mission, saying that an OSCE mission with headquarters in Tbilisi shouldn’t be allowed to operate in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia had recognized them as ‘independent states.’

The decision to extend the observers’ activity doesn’t mean that the actual mandate of the mission will be prolonged. This was underlined in the special statement published by the OSCE on February 12. The same statement contained the comments of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, welcoming the prolongation.

"This decision to extend the mandate of the OSCE monitors shows that all states agree that the Organization is a critical part of international efforts to secure lasting stability in the region. I am confident that we can build on this consensus to ensure that the OSCE will be able to continue its important work for all peoples in the region and help address urgent humanitarian challenges,” states Bakoyannis.

Dora Bakoyannis was expected to visit Georgia on Thursday February 12, however at the last moment she announced she was postponing her visit. “She changed her plans and told me she would continue working on the document,” Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian Foreign Minister, told journalists on February 11. Vashadze was referring to the document proposed by Greece which seeks to ensure the continued presence of the OSCE mission in Georgia. Details of this document have not been made public yet, however Bakoyannis said after talks with her Russian counterpart, Sergey Lavrov, in Moscow on January 21 that it terms would not cross the “red lines” of any parties involved.

“Red lines” were also mentioned by Georgian Foreign Minister Vashadze in Tbilisi at the end of January. “We have our red lines which we will not cross,” he told journalists “We will not do anything that may give the least bit of legitimization to the puppet regimes set up by the occupying forces [in Abkhazia and South Ossetia].” He also said that the OSCE Greek Chairmanship was continuing its efforts to find “a formula acceptable for all the participating states to help maintain the OSCE presence.”

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, speaking on February 12, also stated that Russia has a hope that something will “work out” concerning the prolongation of the OSCE mission in Georgia. He commented on the prolongation of the United Nations mission in Georgia and stated that Russia expects a compromise decision regarding the OSCE mandate too. The UN mission mandate extension project considers prolongation of the mission until June 15 2009, but the title of the mission will not be connected with Georgia, being just the “UN mission.”

Karasin underlined that Russia “can’t ignore the things happened in August,” when “two new countries appeared” in the region.