Situation on the ground in Georgia’s conflict areas “is quite calm”, although “occasional night shootings” are taking place, Hansjörg Haber, head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), said.
“Otherwise, problems around the administrative boundary are generally not security-related but rather pertain to difficulties for the civilian population to cross the line,” he said in remarks posted on EUMM website on September 22.
He reiterated that EUMM planned to reinforce patrolling of areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia ahead of publication of a report by EU-funded August war inquiry mission.
“The publication of the Tagliavini report which we expect for the end of this month will of course be a very important event. We do not know the content of the report. We have not contributed to the investigation nor to the drafting of the report, as we had not been on the ground when the war broke out,” Haber said.
“As for the effects of the publication on the ground, I am optimistic that the end of the month will pass just as calmly as the anniversary of the outbreak of war on August 7. In any case, however, the mission will reinforce its patrolling activities to be able to effectively counter any emerging tension,” he added.
Commenting reports, which emerged in July about Georgia’s willingness to invite the U.S. and Turkey to join EUMM, Haber said that the mission had sufficient monitors and it did not need any contribution from third countries.
“The decision as to whether to invite Turkish or U.S. participation in the mission is a purely political one and it is up to the EU member states to make it. I am not aware of any ongoing talks on this topic. The Georgians have often proposed to further strengthen the mission, but this is not being discussed at the moment,” Haber said.
He also said that Georgia was respecting its commitments undertaken under the memorandum of understanding between the mission and the Defense Ministry on transparency of troops’ movement in the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
“Minor infractions are usually corrected very quickly. The new Minister of Defence has already assured us that our working relationship will remain unchanged and that Georgia will not react to what it would consider provocations,” he said.
Haber said that although authorities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia “are gradually relaxing when it comes to contacts with the EU mission,” but the mission, he added, was still far from conducting patrols on the both sides of the administrative boundary lines.
On recent maritime incidents, Haber said that although the mission was not monitoring Georgia’s territorial waters or beyond, it was following developments. The issue was briefly raised during the September 22 meeting between the sides during a routine security talks in Gali in frames of incident prevention and response mechanism. The issue was also discussed at a similar meeting on September 8.
Georgian Foreign Ministry said on September 22 that Russia’s decision to deploy coast guard patrol vessels off the Abkhaz coast to protect the breakaway region’s “territorial waters” was part of Russia’s “predatory policy” towards Georgia. It said that “militarization will inevitably escalate tensions and pose a threat to the security of the countries in the region.”
Haber said that legal issues related with maritime disputes "are very complex" and "we would advise any party to get independent legal advice before resorting to action."
"Generally I think the parties are now more aware of the problems of taking action than they used to be," he added.
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