Merab Chigoev: Russia and South Ossetia are not going to be trapped by magniloquent assurances of some European structures

Wed, 19/08/2009 - 15:25

On 10 August, The Head of the EUMM in Georgia Hansjorg Haber gave an interview to Berliner Zietung, in which he expressed his vision on the work of the EUMM and what kind of problems it had faced. Merab Chigoev, Deputy Special Representative for Post-Conflict Settlement and representative to the IPRM working group, shared his opinion on whether or not EUMM official's statements were objective.
Merab Chigoev: The first impression is that there is nothing extraordinary, a routine interview of a representative of Europeans structures to one of European newspapers. There is one “but” about it. This is a misinterpretation of facts by Mr. Haber.

Hence, to the question on the causes and those responsible for aggravation of the situation on the territories adjacent to the state border, Mr. Haber diplomatically avoided a direct answer and slurred over the question, however he could not help but point to Russia, saying that the lessons from the crisis had not been learnt, and that one of the reasons for deterioration of the situation was the “strong statement of Russia” on Armed forces put on high combat alert ahead of the 1st anniversary of the August war. I would not agree with these conclusions of the EUMM Head. One of the sides, namely Georgia, did not draw any conclusions from the crisis. Moreover, since October 2008, when the EUMM observers started their patrolling of the Georgian territory adjacent to South Ossetia, defese and security forces of the neighboring state had repeatedly committed provocations both against our Republic and against its citizens – these are abductions of people, systematic shooting at Tskhinval, villages and border checkpoints, deployment of illegal checkpoints in a close vicinity to our border and increased number of armory and armored vehicles. All these things were done by Georgia in the areas of the EUMM’s responsibility. We have had all the proofs and among other parties, we had thoroughly informed Mr. Haber, as the EUMM Head.
In response we got meaningless notes on the impossibility to conduct an efficient monitoring or on lack of proofs of facts we have mentioned and so on and so forth. In our opinion, these destructive actions of the Georgian authorities made with the connivance or silent position of the EUMM, made Russia to put some of its armed forces on high alert, bearing in mind that similar provocations of Georgia in spring and summer 2008, with connivance of the OSCE Mission to Georgia, led to armed aggression of Georgia against the Republic of South Ossetia in August 2008 resulting in numerous casualties. So, Russia and South Ossetia learnt a bitter lessons in the past and are not going to be trapped by magniloquent assurances of both the Georgian authorities and their protectors in European structures. IA RES: In response to question on how stable the situation at the borderline was calm and which of the sides if was more comfortable to work with, Mr. Haber said that the most difficult partners were Ossetians and that they were under strong influence of Russians. He had not mentioned a single incident provoked by the Georgian side. In the meantime, he mentioned seven Georgian policemen killed and murder of the EUMM’s driver. Will you please comment on this?
Merab Chigoev: This is another reflection of double standard policy. If you noticed, Mr. Haber was saying that since October 2008, that is from the very beginning of the EUMM’s patrolling on the Georgian territory adjacent to South Ossetia, in the so-called zone of conflict seven Georgian policemen and the EUMM’s driver were killed. There was no word on where these crimes were committed, who had committed them and under what circumstances. Mr. Haber said nothing about it. If anyone, who is unaware of the situation and the work style of European structures, is reading such things, especially in Western Europe, the message will be that if it were Georgian policemen and the EUMM driver that were killed, it means that the crime was committed by Ossetians. In the meantime the Ossetians side have not head anything about these murders, our citizens were not involved in the crimes, but the readers of Berliner Zeitung have no idea if it so or not. Mr. Haber achieved his goal, he added to the image created by some European officials for trusting European readers – an image of cruel Barbarians – Ossetians, and innocent Georgians, followers of democracy.
These are the methods to deceive the readers and the public in Europe.
Since October 2008, there were incidents in the areas of the EUMM monitoring, for which the Georgian side is responsible and about which we have repeatedly informed the EUMM and Co-Chairpersons to the Geneva talks. There was no case when our information has been checked and there was no rapid reaction to any of these incidents. There are several examples:
On 13 October 2008, three our citizens Khachirov, Pliev and Khugaev disappeared from the location neighboring the villages of Korkula and Khelchua, Tskhinval district. To our inquiries, the Georgian side responded that they knew nothing about these three persons. In the meantime, after a certain time, we got a video piece showing the interrogation and beatings of these persons by law enforcement representatives of Georgia. We also have information from inhabitants of the Georgian village of Mereti, who unofficially confirmed that the persons were detined by Georgian law enforcement bodies, who brought the detainees to this village and were beating them for several ours and then took them to unknown location. The names o f those who participated in the arrest were also mentioned.
All these facts were transmitted to the EUMM and OSCE, as well as to Geneva Co-Chairmen and EU Council for Human Rights, to demand from the Georgian side to provide us with information about the fate of our citizens, expecting corresponding facilitation from the above European structures.
In response, we received notes that these structures were taking steps to search for these persons, though none of them ever did so, in order not to cast a shadow over their favorite “citadel democracy in the Caucasus”.
Another example. On 8 August 2008, Georgian armed forces detained civilians, a inhabitant of Tbet village T. Kabisov and inhabitant of Velit village I. Ikaev. The first was taken to Khashuri where he was kept in pre-trial detention facility of Khashuri police department with other Ossetian detainees.
Some days later, several Ossetians were released and the traces of Kabisov were lost. Ikaev was taken to the military base in Vaziani (near Tbilisi), where he was detained together with more than 10 Ossetians.
On 22 August, Ikaev together with other detainees was taken by bus in the direction of South Ossetia, but in Igoeti of Kaspi district Ikaev was dropped off, and nothing is known about his fate ever since.
We have questioned witnesses of both facts and the received information was transmitted to the EUMM and to Geneva Co-Chairmen hoping that they would help in clarifying the fate of our citizens. It has been already more than a month and we haven’t got any clear answer to our well-grounded request.
Third, we have twice in last few months informed the EUMM in Georgia that in the area of their responsibility, in close vicinity to the border with South Ossetia in violation of the agreements, the Georgian military forces have been deploying additional checkpoints which are equipped with weaponry and armored vehicles, as well as heavy artillery “Grad”. Here, we have mentioned concrete locations and the number of armored vehicles and heavy equipment. This information was passed on twice – in April and July 2009, and we requested the EUMM to interfere since such actions contributed to tensions and provoked the situation. The EUMM promised to examine the information, but so far, we have not received any clear answer.
On the contrary, MR. Haber in his interview stated that the Interior Ministry of Georgia “had voluntarily limited” the number of checkpoints and the number of personnel and heavy equipment at the checkpoints!
Having “equipped himself” with Georgian Interior Ministry’s assurances, Mr. Haber believed “the “nobleness” of their intentions and firmly stated in his interview that from now on, it is excluded that incidents in the EUMM’s area of responsibility are provoked by the Georgian side, meaning that doubts aare automatically cast on the Ossetian side.
This “nobleness” of Mr. Haber was repeatedly used by the Georgian side, which while provoking incidents, knew that the EUMM would find the Ossetian side responsible. Under these circumstances we should emphasize that we do not trust the EUMM and we do not believe in its unbiased approach, and we have all the grounds for this mistrust.
As to the words of Mr. Haber, it is trues, the EUMM observers are not allowed to monitor the territory of South Ossetia.
The EU Mission in Georgia should monitor the situation where it is meant to. According to Medvedev-Sarkozy agreements – this is the territory of Georgia adjacent to the border with the Republic of South Ossetia.
Within the existing format and status, the Mission cannot implement any activity on the territory of other sovereign state – the Republic of South Ossetia. It is worth mentioning that our leadership had repeatedly confirmed the interest in the presence of international organizations in South Ossetia, even that of the notorious OSCE, but exclusively in the capacity of separate units and not as branch offices of Tbilisi HQ. So far, these proposals of European structures had not been accepted, and the above reason is one of the reasons why they cannot work on the territory of South Ossetia. However, we are ready to any reasonable compromise in our relations with international organizations without detriment to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of our Republic.
And last, not least. Despite the questions to the style and methods of the EUMM work in Georgia, we should not refuse to have contacts with it, since this is the only international organization (with an exception to the Geneva discussions) through facilitation of which we can maintain the contact with the Georgian side within the frames of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism to be able to react to urgent problems, which might emerge at the areas on the both sides of the borderline between Georgian and South Ossetia.

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