The U.S. has called on the Russian and South Ossetian sides on March 2 to allow international observers to monitor the Roki Tunnel, which connects breakaway South Ossetia with Russia’s North Ossetian Republic.
Speaking at the OSCE Permanent Council on Thursday Kyle Scott, the U.S. Chargé d’Affaires, said that this could be a reciprocal step by the Russian and South Ossetian side to the Georgian side’s “continuing efforts to make the difficult decisions needed to secure a lasting peace.”
“We call on the Russian and South Ossetian sides to reciprocate with confidence building measures of their own. These should include allowing international observers to monitor the Roki Tunnel and withdrawing Russian personnel and equipment that do not belong in the zone of conflict,” Kyle Scott said.
The diplomat also said that the United States is “deeply concerned” with the statement by Russia that “it will protect the interests of its citizens in South Ossetia.”
“The United States believes that the extension of Russian citizenship to the vast majority of residents of South Ossetia – coupled with such statements – calls into question the Russian Federation's stated support for Georgia's territorial integrity and commitment to support a peaceful resolution of the South Ossetia conflict based on that principle,” the U.S. diplomat said.
Kyle Scott noted the U.S. is “dismayed” at Russia’s refusal to participate in an agreed upon meeting of the Joint Control Commission (JCC), which was scheduled in Vienna for February 20-21.
“The cancellation of the Vienna JCC was a significant setback to our mutual efforts to assist the sides in developing an agreed program of work for confidence building and economic cooperation, leading to the future resolution, through peaceful negotiations, of South Ossetia's status within Georgia,” Kyle Scott stated.
The diplomat also said that the United States “would welcome a direct meeting of the South Ossetian and Georgian sides to develop a shared vision of a peace plan.”
The U.S. diplomat hailed the Georgian authorities announcement to launch unilateral measures to demilitarize the conflict zone.
The U.S. also called on the South Ossetian side to cooperate with the Georgian side over a draft law on property restitution for victims of the conflict in the early 90s.
“It will not be credible later on for the South Ossetian side to criticize the proposed law if they have rejected offers to sit down with the Government to discuss and comment on it before adoption,” Kyle Scott said.
“Echoing the February 21 statement of the EU Presidency on behalf of the European Union, we also continue to believe that the broader participation by OSCE members will facilitate the negotiating process, lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, and promote economic development that benefits all citizens of Georgia, including those living in South Ossetia,” the U.S. diplomat stated.