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Kokoity wants Georgia to pay for water

By Temuri Kiguradze
Wednesday, February 18
Georgian breakaway region South Ossetia is going to demand that the central Georgian Government pays for the water provided to Georgian villages located near the South Ossetian administrative border.

“If the Georgian side refuses to pay for the water, we will stop the supply to Georgian territory,” stated Eduard Kokoity, de facto President of the separatist region. He said this order will come into force on April 1, 2009. “Now we have to establish the price which must be paid for the water,” stated Kokoity, noting that the order will concern both drinking water and water used for irrigation.

The Georgian Agriculture Ministry has confirmed that it is aware of Kokoity’s decision. The Ministry states that Tbilisi “will never agree to pay the separatists.” “The Georgian Government will do its best to find alternative ways to supply water to those villages,” said Giorgi Chaduneli, head of the Ministry’s Press Service. He added that the central authorities have initiated the building of a pipeline near Nikozi, a Georgian village located near the administrative border with the breakaway region. ”This pipeline will be part of the project that will make Georgian villages non-dependent on water from South Ossetia,” stated Chaduneli, speaking to The Messenger on February 17. He noted that South Ossetian water is however vital at present for Georgian villages in two districts bordering the breakaway region.

This is not the first time that the problem of water supply in the region has been raised. In mid 2007, Tskhinvali was left without water. The South Ossetian side stated that the cause of the problem was Georgian villages adding “illegal” irrigation pipelines to the main water route. At that time the de facto authorities cut off the water supply and stopped the flow of this irrigation water to the surrounding Georgian villages. Later this problem was resolved and the supply was resumed.

Official contact between the central Government and the Tskhinvali separatist regime was stopped after the August conflict and the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as ‘independent states’ by Russia on August 26. Tbilisi has declared these territories are “occupied by Russian troops.”

In late January 2009 Tbilisi resumed the natural gas supply to the Tskhinvali region, which had been disrupted by damage to the supply pipeline during the war. The Georgian Energy Ministry said that gas distribution company Itera-Georgia had been authorized by the Government to carry out gas supply to the breakaway region. Special Government permission is required before a company can conduct economic activities in the breakaway regions, according to the Law On The Occupied Territories. The Russian Foreign Ministry welcomed the resumption of the gas supply, and said in a statement posted on its website on January 25 that it was “satisfied that common sense has eventually prevailed in Tbilisi.” Russia had been accusing Tbilisi of an “inhuman gas blockade” of breakaway South Ossetia. Officials in Tbilisi said it had become possible to restore the damaged gas pipeline after security guarantees became available. The damaged section of the pipeline was in immediate proximity to the breakaway region’s administrative border.