Perevi Developments Ahead of Geneva Talks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Dec.'08 / 11:34

A Georgian public TV footage screenshot of Russian soldiers
re-installing checkpoint in Perevi on December 13.

The Russian forces have decided to retake the village of Perevi after the Georgian Interior Ministry deployed there special task unit, the Russian news agency, Interfax, reported quoting unnamed Russian military source.

The Russian troops re-entered the village at the breakaway South Ossetian administrative border on December 12, only hours after they pulled back from Perevi. On the next day they started to re-establish checkpoints in and around the village.

No official statement has been made by Russia explaining what the motive behind the Russian troops’ initial withdrawal and then their re-entering was.

The unnamed military source told Interfax that on December 12, after the Russian forces pulled back from the village, 120-strong Georgian special task force was deployed in the village “in violation of the existing agreements.” “In order to prevent further flare up of tensions a Russian military contingent was sent back to Perevi on December 12.”

Meanwhile, the recent developments in Perevi became an issue in Georgia’s internal political debates. Nino Burjanadze, the former parliamentary chairperson, who now leads the opposition Democratic Movement-United Georgia party, blamed President Saakashvili’s, as she put it, “irresponsible statement” for Russia’s decision to retake Perevi. She was apparently referring to the President’s remarks, when he said on December 12, after the Russian forces pulled back from the village: “We hope that Russia will some time – sooner than later – demonstrate common sense and understand that you can’t get what does not belong to you.” Burjanadze has claimed that Saakashvili’s this statement has undermined positive results achieved by Ilia II, the Patriarch of the Georgian Orthodox Church, who visited Moscow last week.

EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) said in a statement released on December 12, after Russians pulled back from the village: “The Russian forces in South Ossetia have for a long time refused to dismantle this checkpoint, in spite of clear evidence that it was situated to the west of the administrative boundary line of South Ossetia. But the insistence of the EU Presidency and of the EUMM on the ground has borne fruit.”

And after the Russian troops retook the village EUMM said that “the renewed Russian military occupation” of Perevi “is incompatible with the provisions of the Sarkozy-Medvedev peace plan” and called on Moscow to pull back troops from the village “without delay.”

Developments in Perevi came few days before the third round of talks in Geneva, planned for December 17-18.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on December 15, that “concrete mechanisms for prevention of renewal of bloodshed in the region” should be elaborated during the talks in Geneva. It said that these mechanisms were needed especially in the light of “dangerous actions undertaken by the Georgian side in the zones adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, demonstrated, in particular, by concentration of the Georgian troops and police forces in the border areas, by new provocations which are ‘on the verge of foul’ with participation of Mr. Saakashvili.”

EU special envoy for the Georgian crisis, Pierre Morel, who along with special envoys from UN and OSCE, mediates the Geneva talks, said on December 12 while visiting Tbilisi that setting up of an incident prevention mechanisms across the administrative boundary lines would be the main target of the next session of the Geneva talks. Morel carried out a shuttle diplomacy between Tbilisi, Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali recently in an attempt to prepare the third round of talks in Geneva.

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