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Mediators Say Russia Pledged to Withdraw from Perevi
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 15 Oct.'10 / 00:58

Russia will pull its troops out of Perevi, a small village outside breakaway South Ossetia's administrative borders, it emerged after thirteenth round of talks in Geneva on October 14.

"The co-chairs welcomed today’s announcement in the session of the imminent removal of the Russian checkpoint in Perevi as a positive development on the ground," co-mediators of the Geneva talks from EU, OSCE and UN said in a joint statement after the talks.

Members of the Georgian delegation said that the announcement on the matter was made during the talks by Deputy Foreign Minister, Girgory Karasin, who leads the Russian delegation at the Geneva talks.

The village of Perevi administratively falls under the Sachkhere district and is the only area outside the administrative borders of breakaway South Ossetia, which remains under the Russian control following the August, 2008 war. In December, 2008 Russian troops briefly pulled back from the village, but re-entered and re-installed checkpoints there only hours after the withdrawal. Russia cited a prompt deployment of the Georgian Interior Ministry forces in Perevi as a reason behind the decision to retake control over the village.

"De-occupation of any territory or a village is a positive development," First Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria, who leads the Georgian delegation at the Geneva talks, said.

He, however, also indicated that the Russian delegation's announcement should not be overestimated.

"There were statements of this kind in the past as well; we hope that this time it will not be only a statement and real de-occupation of the village will occur," Bokeria said in a phone interview with RFE/RL Georgian service after the talks.

"They [Russia] will try to sell this move as a constructive step, but I want to emphasis, that it is only a slightest part of those commitments, which they have undertaken" under the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement, Bokeria said.

He said that this move by Russia should be viewed "in a right context" and possible withdrawal from Perevi should not lead to easing international pressure on Russia over its unfulfilled commitments. "And it won't happen," Bokeria added.

Speaking on the Geneva talks in overall and particularly on its thirteenth round, Bokeria said, that despite co-mediators' efforts there had not been any significant progress on "fundamental issues", involving withdrawal of Russian troops, new international security arrangement in Abkhazia and South Ossetia and return of displaced persons.

"It will be premature, to say the least, to speak about any progress on fundamental issues. It, however, does not mean that the Geneva talks should not continue. We will spare no efforts to maintain this process," he said.

Participants from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia gathered in Geneva for thirteenth round of talks on October 14 in frames of the format launched after the August war in October, 2008.

"The overall situation was assessed as relatively calm, but fragile," three co-chairs of the talks, Pierre Morel of the EU, Bolat Nurgaliyev of the OSCE and Antti Turunen of the UN, said in the joint statement after the talks.

They said that a report on monitoring of investigations into cases of missing persons by the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, "received particular attention" of the participants.

"The need for all involved participants to comply with all its [the report's] recommendations was emphasized by the co-chairs, as well as the need to pursue the work on detained persons," the statement reads.

Unresolved issue of missing persons was among the reasons cited by Tskhinvali behind its refusal to participate in meetings of Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) - a framework established by the Geneva talks to address routine security issues on the ground. Only several such meetings were held with participation of officials from Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, as well as representatives of the Russian troops in South Ossetia, in presence of EU monitors.

The co-chairs said after the thirteenth round of the talks that they had "registered the agreement on the resumption" IPRM meetings by the end of October. IPRM meetings are regularly held in respect of Abkhazia.

Co-chairs noted with "regret" a decision of representatives from Tskhinvali not to attend a meeting of the second working group, which deals with humanitarian issues and return of displaced persons and refugees. Tskhinvali was protesting against discussion of UN General Assembly resolution, which calls for return of IDPs and refugees to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

"Full contribution by all participants and resumption of usual format of Working Group II is essential for confidence building and resolution of immediate humanitarian problems," the co-chairs said.

Another working group in frames of the Geneva talks deals with security issues. Non-use of force treaty, one of the most contentious issues, and international security arrangement was again discussed in this working group, but no progress was reported.

Bolat Nurgaliyev, the special envoy of the Kazakh OSCE chairmanship, said after the talks that OSCE was ready to start working on repairing the Zonkari dam in breakaway South Ossetia, which will be funded by EU. He said that repair of this dam would improve its safety and restore its potential to provide irrigation water.

Participants agreed to hold the next round of talks on December 16.

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