Russia turned down OSCE Greek chairmanship’s proposals on keeping the organization’s monitors in Georgia with right of free movement across the South Ossetian administrative border.
The proposal, which made no mention of Georgia or South Ossetia in order to avoid the breakaway region’s status, offered stationing of 22 OSCE monitors in the village of Karaleti on the Georgian side of administrative border and eight monitors in Tskhinvali with the right of free movement across the administrative border. According to Reuters Russia’s version crossed out references to “free and unimpeded contact and movement.”
The Associated Press reported that Russia’s revised version makes the movement of the monitors into and out of South Ossetia subject to the approval of the breakaway region’s authorities. While the Greek plan, according to the same report, calls for one officer to oversee the monitors, the Russian proposal calls for two. It also specifies that monitors in Tskhinvali should be civilian, not military.
Russia’s ambassador to OSCE, Anvar Azimov, told Itar-Tass news agency that the Greek proposal did not envisage new realities which emerged after the August war, referring to Russia’s recognition of South Ossetia’s independence.
Paata Gaprindashvili, Georgia’s ambassador to OSCE, told the Georgian public TV on May 13 that “Russia has again isolated itself with absolute majority of OSCE participating states supporting the Greek proposal.”
Reuters reported citing unnamed OSCE diplomats that all member states embraced the Greek proposal except Kazakhstan and Belarus, which were non-committal but voiced no opposition.
The Georgian envoy also said that Russia suffered “complete fiasco because of its inflexible diplomacy.” “This decision [to veto proposal] will hang on Russia as a sword of Damocles,” he said and added that by doing so Russia had again demonstrated that it was in contravention of its own commitments undertaken under the August 12 and September 8 ceasefire deals.
A spokesman for the U.S. Department of State, Ian Kelly, said on May 13 that OSCE monitors “should have complete access to South Ossetia.”
“We call upon the Russians to abide by… the agreement reached by Mr. Sarkozy and Mr. Medvedev. We think that Russia should allow the OSCE monitors complete access to South Ossetia and the surrounding region,” he said. “Our goal and the goal of the international community is a peaceful and stable South Caucasus. And we think the way to reach that is via complete transparency. And of course, we think the OSCE has an important role to play in reaching that transparency.”
OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister, Dora Bakoyannis, said on March 23 when she was visiting Tbilisi that that all the sides had to show “flexibility” in order to achieve a consensus on continued OSCE presence in the region.
“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,” she said.
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.