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Kremlin: Georgian territorial integrity “unreal”

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, June 5
Russia again demanded an independent OSCE mission in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia at the OSCE Permanent Council session in Vienna on June 4.

"If we want stability and a common language in the region, we need to find the right compromise which would make it possible to maintain the OSCE military monitors in South Ossetia and Georgia," stated Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Karasin at the session of the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday. Russia demands the separation of the Georgian OSCE mission into two independent missions with headquarters in Tskhinvali and Tbilisi. The Kremlin explains this by the fact that separatist South Ossetia was recognised as an independent state by Russia. Currently the OSCE mission to Georgia is suspended as Russia has vetoed its prolongation.

“Discussions on the prolongation of the OSCE monitoring mission on the territory of Georgia and South Ossetia have been underway for a long time. There is nothing simpler than to coordinate the practical performance parameters of the mission on both sides of the border with respecting the opinion of the [South Ossetia and Georgian] sides. That’s the point of the Russian proposal to create two monitoring groups. However our partners are accusing us of a fictional resolution of [breakaway South Ossetia’s] status questions. The Greek project which considers the OSCE [mission’s central] office will be based in Tbilisi is based on the unreal precondition of Georgian territorial integrity. It’s obvious that the monitoring mission will not be able to operate on South Ossetian territory without the permission of Tskhinvali,” said Karasin on June 4.

Commenting on Russia’s position, Georgian State Minister on Euroatlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze noted that Russia “is the only state that has a non-constructive position concerning the prolongation of the OSCE mandate in Georgia.” “I hope that the position of Georgia, its partners and the international community will be sufficiently strict towards Russia,” said Baramidze in Tbilisi on June 4, adding that Russia’s position creates “international isolation” for Moscow.

The Georgian envoy to OSCE, Paata Gaprindashvili, stated that Karasin’s speech at the OSCE “made even the last hope of maintaining the OSCE’s activities in Georgia disappear.” “By rejecting the presence of the OSCE monitors, Russia once again demonstrated its negative approach to the principles of transparency and accountability. All these actions have one single aim – to make sure the Russian military presence in Tskhinvali Region is unchecked, unmonitored and non-transparent, that no international organisation observes their legalisation of the occupation through the well-employed instruments of illegal passportisation, ethnic cleansing and military build-up,” stated Gaprindashvili, speaking in Vienna on June 4. He also underlined “Russia’s negligent approach towards the Geneva discussions, and Russia’s attempts to use them as a tool to blackmail the international community in different forums.”

“Your Government has turned the Tskhinvali Region and Abkhazia into huge military bases. But I assure you that the time will come when the last Russian soldier will leave the occupied Georgian territories, just as you had to leave Hungary, Czechoslovakia and Afghanistan. And by then there will be international presence on the ground to monitor how this withdrawal is taking place,” stated Gaprindashvili, addressing Karasin. Answering this accusation Karasin stated that the Russian military bases in South Ossetia and Abkhazia have been established “by the invitation and agreement of the authorities of the accepting countries [separatist Abkhazia and South Ossetia]. Their deployment is absolutely legitimate and supported by the population of these republics.”

Sergi Kapanadze, Deputy Director of the Department of International Organizations at Georgia's Foreign Ministry, evaluated Karasin’s statement as “cynical and absurd.” “The statements of Russia that their troops entered the Georgian breakaway regions to protect local residents are silly and have nothing to do with reality. These forces are performing an occupation of Georgian territory,” Kapanadze told The Messenger on June 4. He added that after Thursday’s session “almost no chances are left for the extension of the OSCE mission in Georgia”

Greece, as the acting OSCE Chair, has suspended negotiations on the prolongation of the OSCE mission in Georgia due to the disagreements between Russia and other OSCE states.