Recent Developments in Occupied Tskhinvali Discussed at IPRM Meeting in Ergneti

Representatives of Georgia, de facto South Ossetia (Tskhinvali), the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) and the OSCE discussed around 10 acute issues, including the borderization process, on Georgian territories at the 79th meeting under the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) held in Ergneti, de facto South Ossetia, on July 11.

The EUMM reports that Ambassador Kestutis Jankauskas, Head of the EUMM in Georgia, and Ambassador Guenther Baechler, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus, co-facilitated the proceedings.

The discussions, which lasted for seven hours, were opened by Ambassador Baechler with Ambassador Jankauskas later providing a short overall summary of events since the last meeting.

The talks included the general security situation, Hotline activations and detention cases. It was noted that the number of Hotline activations had doubled compared to the previous period.

The EUMM stated that the number of detentions at the so-called border was also higher than during the previous period and higher than the same period in 2016.

Two cases of airspace violations involving unmanned aerial vehicles were raised by participants, who agreed to look into the cases. The co-facilitators underlined the availability of the Hotline to clarify potential airspace violations.

One of the most acute issues the Georgian side raised at the meeting was the creeping occupation and the occupation line having been moved further into Georgian territory in Bershueti village last week, which left local farmers without 20 hectares of agricultural land.

Ambassador Jankauskas expressed his appreciation of the pre-announcement of such installations and encouraged, also in this respect, to continue use of the Hotline for mutual information sharing.

The Georgian side demanded the local farmers be allowed to harvest their crops from the lands misappropriated by the occupation regime.

Georgian media reports that the issue of a new wave of border demarcation works carried out by de facto Tskhinvali forces in three Georgian villages: Knolevi, Tseronisi and Avlevi, Kareli district, were raised at the meeting.

Representative of the breakaway Tskhinvali region, Murad Jioev, stated that the demarcation was necessary to prevent local farmers from coming within 200 meters of the "border”.

He also added that the furrows made by Russian soldiers in Kareli villages would prevent the spread of fire, which is very common in the fields.

“Fire is very common in the fields, this is why we decided to make furrows there. As for Bershueti village, the locals should have thought in advance not to plant crops on the territory of another country,” Jioev was quoted as saying by the Georgian Public Broadcaster.

Representative of the central Georgian government, Kakhaber Kemoklidze, said that the “illegal erection” of so-called border signs at the occupation line created serious problems for the local population and added that the sides could not reach consensus over the borderization process.

“The process started with barbed wire fences, then it continued with the illegal erection of signs and the last phase of the borderization process is this so called anti-fire line, made by the occupation regime,” Kemoklidze said.

The Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism was created in February 2009 as a result of the Geneva discussions that followed the 2008 conflict in Georgia. The meetings are an opportunity to identify potential risks and problems facing the local community, follow up on incidents, and exchange information.

The next IPRM meeting will take place on 7 September 2017.

Thea Morrison

13 July 2017 17:18