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Russia Calls for Talks on Modalities of ‘Buffer Zones’
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 2 Sep.'08 / 00:43

Russia and EU have both said there was a need for international monitors in areas adjacent to S.Ossetia.

In a statement issued hours before the EU leaders’ emergency summit on September 1, the Russian Foreign Ministry said it was in full compliance with the six-point ceasefire accord and laid out modalities of how it saw implementation of one of the provisions of that agreement, involving putting into place “an international mechanism” on the ground.

The Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement that Moscow had completed the withdrawal of its troops to pre-conflict positions.

“All the troops sent to South Ossetia to repel Georgian aggression have returned to Russia, except for those now deployed in South Ossetia to maintain peace, there upon the request of its [the South Ossetian] leadership,” it said. “The Russian peacekeeping forces, as envisaged in the second part of point five [of the ceasefire accord], are undertaking additional security measures. For that purpose, a security zone has been formed around South Ossetia and the regime there currently is maintained by the checkpoints of the Russian peacekeeping forces, 500 servicemen in total.”

What Russia calls a "security zone" is an area deep inside Georgian territory around breakaway South Ossetia.

Russia said it was ready to launch talks on the modalities of the replacement of its troops in this zone with international monitors or even with an international police force. But it also made it clear that it wanted an international presence only within this zone and not inside the breakaway region itself.

“With the regrettable experience related to the aggressive aspirations of the current leadership of Georgia in mind, the functions of OSCE military monitors should be focused on patrolling the security zone with particular attention paid to its inner perimeter,” it said. “Moreover, it is appropriate to provide an international police presence in the security zone. Such a presence of [international police] can be put in place under OSCE aegis and based on EU capabilities, as EU member-states have already expressed an interest in the matter.”

EU leaders said in conclusions released after the summit that they were planning to send a fact-finding mission to Georgia to gather information to define the modalities for “an increased European Union commitment on the ground, under the European Security and Defence Policy.”

The EU stressed that there were no plans to send any monitors inside South Ossetia. The conclusions released after the summit, note that there is an urgent need to replace Russian troops with international monitors “in the zone adjacent to South Ossetia.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry said Russian participation in the proposed international police force within the security zone was being considered by Moscow.

The Russian MFA said that such an arrangement would require the elaboratation of and agreement on modalities and “the regime of this zone and first and foremost the parameters of its demilitarization.”

Earlier on September 1, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Moscow wanted an arms embargo on Georgia.

“After these international mechanisms – additional military observers, a police component and other possible forms of international participation - are in place, it will be possible to carry out an analysis of the situation on the ground in the security zone to ascertain the regime's effectiveness in respect of preventing a new attack on South Ossetia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

It also said that it was ready to consider a similar mechanism in the security zone it has established around Abkhazia.

“That can be done by drawing upon the existing experience of cooperation between the Russian peacekeeping forces and UN observers,” the Russian MFA said.

“The Russian side has no intention of maintaining its peacekeeping forces beyond South Ossetia or Abkhazia,” it continued. “At the same time, we will continue to insist on putting in place international control – as laid out above – on Georgian territories adjacent to [Abkhazia and South Ossetia], so as to prevent new preparations for war by the regime in Tbilisi.”

Following agreement on the modalities of the security zone, the Russian MFA said Tbilisi should then sign binding agreements with Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the non-use of force.

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