A meeting of working groups held at the South Ossetian-Georgian border

Mon, 07/09/2009 - 10:02

On 3 September, a preparatory meeting of the working groups within the frames of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) was held at the South Ossetian-Georgian border. As the head of the South Ossetian Delegation Merab Chigoev underlined, “official meetings were suspended upon the initiative of the South Ossetian side due to unsettled issues of the meetings’ presidency and the fate of South Ossetian citizens detained by Georgian special services”.
”These are three citizens who were abducted in October 2008 from their villages in Tskhinval and Znaur districts. No progress in these issues induced our decision to suspend our participation in official meetings. Nonetheless, with the repeated addresses from the Co-Chairmen of the Geneva discussions and the appeal of the Russian MFA, we resumed these contacts but in the format of preparation for official meetings”, said Chigoev.

According to him, along with organizational issues, these meetings’ discussions focus on crucial problems related to everyday life of the population inhabiting territories adjacent to the borderline on both sides. “Today’s meeting was difficult and informative. The South Ossetian delegation has once again raised the issue on the fate of our citizens abducted by Georgian special services. We have also touched upon the problem with Russian citizens – Khestanov and Marzoev detained by the Georgian side at the border with Leningor district where they went to the Georgian territory. Marzoev was detained with his underage grandson in the village of Odzisi and Khestanov was detained in the area of the village of Obrevi while he was crossing the border to Georgian territory. Both persons were detained for violation of border-crossing; they did not commit any other violations and the Georgian side confirms this fact. Nevertheless, criminal cases had been initiated against them and they are currently in detention. We stated that this position of the Georgian side was absolutely unacceptable for us. During our previous meeting in Dvani we have reached an oral agreement that if a border violation is unintentional, after certain proceedings on identification of the character of the violation, the citizens of both sides will be allowed to return the other side of the border”, said Chigoev.
He underlined that through last 6 weeks, 14 citizens of Georiga violated the state border of South Ossetia. “They were detained by our law enforcement bodies or border-guards and in accordance with the above mentioned agreement they were let back to the Georgian territory. We have not seen a similar attitude from the Georgian side. They stated that the Russian citizens detained by the Georgian side for violating the border between Russia and Georgia, considering the border between South Ossetia and Georgia as an administrative border. The current realities are different, there is a state border, no matter if Georgia admits it or not. Therefore we addressed the Georgian delegation and representatives of the EUMM in Georgia with a proposal to release the Russian citizens without any conditions and to agree that in the future, with unintentional breaches of the border, citizens of both states would be release to return to the neighboring territory. If Khestanov and Murzoev are not released before the middle of the next week, we will consider it as an unfriendly step by Georgia and we will have to act accordingly towards Georgian citizens. I thought the EUMM representatives understood our concerns. As to the Georgian delegation, they stated that they should have consultations with relevant structures. They are free to do so, there is still time before the next week”, said Chigoev. He stated that delayed settlement of this problem would cause nothing but additional tensions at the borderline.
According to Chigoev, the Georgian side raised the question on 6 Georgian citizens detained in Leningor district on 31 August. “They linked the problem with unintentional breach of the border. However, according to the information of the Russian FSB Border-guard department in South Ossetia, the personnel of which had detained these six persons, the Georgian citizens crossed the state border by a truck through the official checkpoint. And, they stated that they were going to Leningor district of South Ossetia to see their relatives there and that they themselves were inhabitants of this district. Few hours later, they were again detained at the bypass road while they were transporting 6 cubic meters of timber. A part of this merchantable timber load belonged to wood species included into the Red Book of rare or endangered types. The border-guards transferred these persons to the Prosecutor’s Office of South Ossetia and investigation is ongoing. We have stated that this case had nothing in common with unintentional breach of the state border, and these people were detained while committing a crime on the territory of South Ossetia and escaping through by-pass roads to transport the timber to Georgia. In case this finds proofs through the investigation, they will held responsible in accordance with the laws of South Ossetia. As soon as we receive the information from our law enforcement bodies, we will inform all parties concerned”, said Chigoev.
According to him, the South Ossetian delegation stated that the issue with presidency and the fate of five South Ossetian abducted citizens would be raised at the next round of the Geneva talks on security and stability in the Caucasus.
“My personal opinion is that if these problems are not settled at Geneva talks, there are serious doubts about the necessity to continue our delegation’s participation in the meetings of the working groups”, underscored Chigoev.
In conclusion, he reported that a preliminary agreement was reached to hold the next meeting on 24 September. “We have preliminary confirmed our participation. In the nearest future, during the next week, the exact date will be agreed”, he added.

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