The threat of large-scale conflict in South Ossetia "is becoming more real," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned.
It said in a statement on August 3 that Tbilisi’s actions on the ground contradicted its “declarations” on the need for urgent measures to defuse tensions in South Ossetia.
“Late on August 2 and overnight on August 3 Georgia conducted open military maneuvers close to Tskhinvali and sent forces and military hardware to the conflict zone,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.
The authorities in Tskhinvali have also leveled similar allegations, all of which have been denied by Tbilisi.
Moscow has blamed Tbilisi for the new wave of tensions, saying the situation started to exacerbate overnight on August 2, when “a massive mortar shelling of residential areas of Tskhinvali resulted in casualties” among local residents.
“The threat of large-scale military actions between Georgia and South Ossetia is becoming more real,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.
It also said that recent tensions have again prioritized the need to sign an agreement on the non-use of force between the Georgian and South Ossetian sides.
“Undertaking commitments [on the non-use of force] would avert the threat of war in the region,” it added. “The use of force would finally ruin hopes for resolving the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.”
It said that resumption of talks in the frames of the quadripartite Joint Control Commission was also a priority in order to help defuse tensions.
“The course undertaken by the Georgian side towards undermining the JCC is especially counterproductive in the existing situation,” the Russian MFA said. “The OSCE mission in Georgia has to take a more active and clear position in support of the urgent resumption of our joint work in the frames of the JCC.”
Negotiators from the Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian and Russia’s North Ossetian side make up a quadripartite negotiating body, the JCC, seen by Tskhinvali and Moscow as the main tool for negotiations. Tbilisi, however, pulled out from this Russian-dominated body in March.
Tbilisi has instead proposed replacing the JCC with a new negotiating body based on a 2+2+2 formula. The North Ossetian side, according to this proposal, would be replaced by the South Ossetian provisional administration and the OSCE and EU would also be included. Another option for Tbilisi seems to be talks in a format involving the South Ossetian side, Russia, and the EU or OSCE; Tskhinvali, however, says the North Ossetian side should also be represented.
The Russian MFA said that it was undertaking “persistent efforts” through diplomatic channels, as well as through its peacekeepers on the ground, to help defuse tensions in the region.