OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said on March 23 that all the sides should show “flexibility” in order to achieve a consensus on continued OSCE presence in the region.
Speaking after talks with her Georgian counterpart, Grigol Vashadze, in Tbilisi, Bakoyannis said: “The only way to do this is to depoliticize the debate and focus on a practical necessity of robust OSCE presence… Flexibility on all sides is the key word.”
Although it was possible to extend mandate of 20 OSCE unarmed observers, deployed in the areas adjacent to breakaway South Ossetia, till June 30, the OSCE Mission to Georgia itself is in a phase of closure after Russia vetoed extension of the mission mandate in December, as Moscow insists on a separate mission that would coverer breakaway South Ossetia independently from the Tbilisi office. Georgia says that it has its red lines and will not accept anything that may give legitimization of, what Tbilisi calls, Russia’s “proxy regime” in South Ossetia.
Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian foreign minister, said at the joint news conference with his Greek counterpart that Georgia was disposed towards constructive cooperation and Tbilisi “is not going to be the side, which breaks the compromise” if such compromise would become possible by other sides. During the press conference Bakoyannis thanked Georgia for “constructive approach.”
Vashadze also said that Greek proposal on OSCE’s continued presence was “well-thought” and represented “an interesting basis for launch of a dialogue and for reaching a compromise.”
Bakoyannis said that situation on the ground “remains unstable, which entails various risks and challenges that needs to be addressed.”
“Thus I strongly believe that we need more and not less OSCE presence in the region,” she said.
She also said that it was the immediate priority of the Greek OSCE Chairmanship to reach a consensus solution on continued OSCE presence – “a solution based on the fundamental values and principles of our organization – respect of territorial integrity; respect to reaching solutions through dialogue, diplomacy and compromise.”
“It is my firm conviction, that what is at stake here is not only the OSCE presence but the peace process as well,” Bakoyannis said. “If OSCE withdraws the whole Geneva process could be seriously affected; it could be seriously at risk. I am convinced that there is no one who would like to see such a negative development emerging.”
She also said that the European Union “can not and should not remain alone on the ground and in the Geneva talks. The EU can not replace the OSCE.”
EU, along with OSCE is a co-mediator in the Geneva talks, and also has 249 unarmed monitors, observing situation in the areas adjacent to breakaway South Ossetia and Abkhazia.