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of breakaway South Ossetia.
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said on August 19 that Georgia will give “a last chance for peace” in breakaway South Ossetia and added that Tbilisi is ready to pullout its extra troops from the conflict zone in exchange of peace.
In his special address to the nation on August 19 Mikheil Saakashvili said that the Georgia is also ready to handover strategic hill, which was taken over by the Georgian troops early on August 19, to the joint peacekeeping forces, involving Georgian, Russian and Ossetian troops. The hill was previously occupied by the South Ossetian militias and mercenaries.
He also said that security of the Georgian villages located in the conflict zone, which came under frequent fire during past week, is of vital importance for Tbilisi.
“That is why we offer that 500 Georgian peacekeepers, which are the part of joint peacekeeping troops, will be stationed in the Georgian villages. All other extra troops, which we have dispatched in the region after the deterioration of situation there, will be pulled out,” President Saakashvili said.
“We want to use every chance to solve the crisis peacefully. But this will be the last chance for peace,” Saakashvili added.
He said that Georgian Defense Minister Giorgi Baramidze, together with the Georgian peacekeepers deployed in the conflict zone, will be in charge of ensuring security of the Georgian villages.
He said that Georgian is ready to undertake “even the toughest measures, but these measures will be provoked only by the separatists.”
“I want to tell the Georgian people that we cannot lose in case a large-scale military confrontation is launched… Georgia has succeeded in its state-building process recently, but our enemies are unhappy about this and try to engage us in war. I am not afraid of this, but we cannot lose again,” Mikheil Saakashvili said.
This is the first comment by the Georgian President since the escalation of tensions in the conflict zone more than a week ago, which triggered overnight fighting and shellings of the Georgian villages in the conflict zone. As a result of these skirmishes a total of 12 Georgian soldiers have been killed and many other injured.
On August 19 Georgian internal troops, together with the Security Ministry’s forces attacked a strategic hill near the Ossetian village of Trianakhana, from which the South Ossetian militias and mercenaries were shelling Georgian villages, according to Georgian officials.
President Saakashvili said that the takeover of the strategic hill at Trianakhana made it clear that Georgia is capable of defending its interests.
According to the Georgian Interior Minister, Irakli Okruashvili, who personally oversaw the three-hour long operation, eight Russian mercenaries, mainly Cossacks, were killed and a large number of arms and weapons was seized, including one infantry armored vehicle. However, the South Ossetian side denied this report.
Irina Gagloeva, a spokesperson of the breakaway South Ossetian government, told Itar-Tass news agency that around 500 Georgian troops attacked the northern outskirts of the separatist capital Tskhinvali; however, the attacks was repressed, she added. The South Ossetian side also denies reports regarding the take over of the strategic hill by the Georgian troops.
Head of the OSCE Mission to Georgia Ambassador Roy Reeve confirmed at a news briefing in Tbilisi that the hill, from which the shelling of Georgian villages was carried out, was taken over the Georgian forces. Ambassador Reeve also said that the joint peacekeeping troops, involving Georgian, Russian and Ossetian sides, should monitor these areas together with OSCE observers.