Outgoing EU special representative for South Caucasus and a co-chair of the Geneva talks, Philippe Lefort, reiterated EU’s support to Georgia’s territorial integrity and said no one should “attempt to misinterpret it.”
His comment was made in response to a report by Russia’s online news agency, Regnum, which wrote on January 20: “Status of South Ossetia as an independent state has been defined by the people of the republic a long time ago and it is actually impossible to change this position. It was announced by co-chair of the Geneva Discussions from the EU, Philippe Lefort, in Tskhinvali on January 20.” A similar report was also carried by the breakaway region’s official news agency, RES, after Lefort’s meeting with South Ossetian leader Leonid Tibilov in Tskhinvali on January 20.
“The EU position is based upon the support for the territorial integrity of Georgia within internationally recognized borders, and nobody should be in any doubt of that or attempt to misinterpret it,” Lefort told Civil.ge by phone from Yerevan on January 21.
Reports by Russian and South Ossetian news agencies were picked up by the Georgian media sources on January 21 with Rustavi 2 TV dubbing it as “a scandalous statement by the EU representative.”
Asked about this report Foreign Minister Maia Panjikidze said earlier on January 21 that she would ask the EU special representatives whether it’s true or not when she meets Lefort in Tbilisi on January 22.
First Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Zalkaliani, who is Georgia’s chief negotiator in the Geneva talks, said: “He [Lefort] has never made a statement directed against Georgia and as a co-chair of [the Geneva Discussions] he has always been unbiased and has always led the negotiating process appropriately; so I was surprised with [this report] and I do not want to believe that it’s true.”