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Talks on further Georgia observers fall through

Latest update : 2008-09-20

The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has not reached an agreement with Russia on deploying more observers in Georgia. Its members disagreed on where observers would be sent.

The OSCE said Thursday it will not send any additional observers to Georgia for now, amid differences with Russia over where they should be deployed.
"We have reached no consensus on the observers despite one month of negotiations. We have exhausted the diplomatic way" at the OSCE, the chairman of the organisation's permanent council and head of the Finnish delegation, Antti Turunen, told AFP.
"I see no point in continuing the negotiations here."
Finland currently holds the OSCE chairmanship, which rotates annually, and Turunen was standing in for the chairman-in-office, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb.
"One of the sticking points is the area of responsibility in which South Ossetia is not included," Turunen said.
In Moscow, the foreign ministry expressed concern at the OSCE's decision.
"The refusal of some of our OSCE partners to continue negotiations on the modalities of work of additional observers for the OSCE mission in Georgia raises particular concern," said foreign ministry spokesman Andrei Nesterenko, quoted by Interfax news agency.
"Unfortunately, some of our partners have chosen to depart from the existing agreements," Nesterenko said.
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe initially planned to send up to 100 monitors to Georgia for a minimum period of six months, but the details of their deployment -- so-called "modalities" -- had yet to be decided.
Eight monitors already on the ground as part of an earlier OSCE mission were to be allowed into the breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Then, in mid-August, the OSCE agreed to deploy 20 military monitoring officers (MMOs) around South Ossetia to oversee a ceasefire deal between Georgia and Russia.
Moscow was ready to agree to the deployment of additional monitors in Georgia, but on condition they were not allowed access to South Ossetia, contrary to the OSCE's plans.
Turunen said the OSCE would still be able to work with the current number of monitors, but it would facilitate the situation to have the complete number planned.
Georgia's OSCE delegate Paata Gaprindashvili regretted the failure to reach agreement on the deployment of additional observers, insisting that "80 percent of Russian proposal(s) have been taken on board."
For his part, Russian ambassador Anvar Azimov said Moscow was keeping the door open and "we are ready to continue the dialogue with our partners."
Nevertheless, he argued that negotiations would have to be held with South Ossetia directly.
"Since there is an independent South Ossetia, they (the OSCE) have to talk to them for their mandate"," he said.
Under a European Union-backed peace plan, all Russian troops are to leave uncontested parts of Georgia -- with the exception of South Ossetia and Abkhazia -- by the middle of next month.
The troops poured into Georgia last month to repel an attack by the Georgian army aimed at retaking the pro-Russian region of South Ossetia.
Azimov said Russia, which says it has already evacuated 250 troops from the zones, would pull out, as agreed, "the remaining 300 soldiers" by October 10 following the deployment of the EU mission on October 1.
But he said the OSCE observers "should also monitor the process of Georgian forces' return to their bases by October 1 and monitor peace and order in these zones."
Apart from the OSCE monitors, at least 200 EU military observers are to be deployed to the region.

Date created : 2008-09-18