Friday, November 14, 2008

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding GAERC’s press communique on the “EU-Russia Relations”

In a communiqué issued after their General Affairs and External Relations Council (GAERC) on November 10, 2008, the Foreign Ministers of the European Union confirmed their commitment to the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of Georgia and underlined the importance of Russia’s compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement. This agreement unambiguously requires the Russian Federation to withdraw its troops from the occupied territories of Georgia.

The EU also stressed that the Russian Federation should comply with its obligations and engage in the Geneva talks in a constructive spirit. Should Russia fulfill its obligations in good faith, it is our strong conviction that the next round of the Geneva talks will be productive. We look forward to what we hope will be constructive discussions in Geneva on November 18, 2008.

The EU Foreign Ministers also made it clear that the dialogue with the Russian Federation in no way implies that the EU is legitimizing the existing status quo in Georgia or the actions of the Russian Federation that are contrary to European values and principles. It is noteworthy that the European Union underlined the importance of assessing the compliance of the Russian Federation with its international obligations and taking this assessment into account when deciding how to conduct the business with Russia.

It is also important that the European Union made a high priority of the issue of access for international monitors to Abkhazia, Georgia, and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia. Indeed, without transparency and international monitoring, the occupied Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia will remain safe heavens for continuous human rights violations, including ethnic cleansing, as well as organized crime, terrorism, and arms and drugs trafficking. They will serve as a means to continually undermine Georgia’s sovereignty and stability.

It is essential for the European Union, as it has in the past, to act swiftly and consistently with regard to the issues outlined in the November 10 GAERC Communique. It was the EU’s, as well as other important international actors’ response to Russia’s August invasion that sent a clear message to Moscow, helped slow Russian aggression, and cleared the way for the EU to broker the ceasefire agreement. Equally effective were the EU’s rapid deployment of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), its provision of generous financial and humanitarian assistance to Georgia, and the Union’s decision to speed up Georgia’s integration with the EU. Only the EU’s strong engagement with steady and consistent actions will deter aggressive states from forcefully changing Europe’s boundaries, undermining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of European nations, and using ethnic cleansing as a tool for implementing foreign policy goals. Such aggressive states should not have any hope that fundamental principles can be sacrificed for the sake of short-term convenience, thus giving them license to illegally use their military or economic power.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia once again reiterates that Georgia continues to be in full compliance with the August 12 cease-fire agreement, brokered by the Presidency of the EU. The strong, principled, and consistent stance of the European Union on the need for the Russian Federation to strictly abide by the August 12 agreement is essential for the security not only of Georgia, but of the entire European neighborhood.

Friday, November 7, 2008

EU Monitors in New Standoff with Russia

In the latest face-off with Russia, the head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia yesterday demanded access to the conflict zones. “The EU monitors have not been able to enter the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We keep knocking on their doors, we are carrying out patrols near their checkpoints,” said Hans Jorg Haber, head of the EU Monitoring Mission, on Wednesday. “We want to make it clear for everyone that our mandate should cover the entire territory of Georgia.”

Late last month, the EU monitors had another pointed confrontation with Moscow, after Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused them of ignoring alleged Georgian violations outside the conflict zones. Haber retorted that the EU mission had been "pleasantly surprised" by the lack of serious incidents and called allegations from Georgia's region of South Ossetia province of violations "overblown."

“We don't get any details from the Russians. We just get general allegations,” Haber said of the Lavrov’s assertions. He added that the mission currently had to communicate with the Russians via the Swiss embassy in Tbilisi. "We literally don't have any telephone number on their side so far. We have been asking for it and I will ask for it again.”

Haber also said Moscow was distorting the role of Georgian special forces. "Georgian special forces are not what Moscow understands. They're lightly armed police units, not travelling in armoured vehicles, and needed to restore law and order in adjacent areas," he said.

The escalating tensions with Moscow come on the eve of an EU-Russia Summit in Nice later this month. The EU is set to decide whether to resume negotiations on a partnership pact with Russia. However, at their emergency summit on September 1 following Russia’s invasion of Georgia, EU leaders had agreed to resume negotiations only if the terms of the six point ceasefire agreement had been met.

Russia is defying the ceasefire agreement on numerous accounts. In addition to denying EU monitors access to the conflict zones, Russia has (1) introduced massive additional troops into both regions,; (2) announced plans to maintain and expand its military forces and bases in both of those regions: (3) seized areas that the Government of Georgia controlled prior to the invasion including the district of Akhalgori, a predominantly ethnic Georgian town, just 60 km from Tbilisi, that has never been a part of the conflict zone, and (4) forcibly evicted the Georgian po from the newly seized areas (Kodori gorge). And it has failed to rescind its recognition of the independence of the two Georgian territories.

Meanwhile, Russia also is maintaining more than double the pre-conflict legal limit of troops in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Haber, the head of the EU monitors, has said that since the EU does not recognize the independence of the two breakaway provinces, "there is no legal foundation" for the stationing of an announced 3,800 Russian regular troops to replace the 500 peacekeepers.

Moscow’s intransigence has galvanized several EU leaders to call on their counterparts to refuse a return to business as usual with Russia. “We reiterate that under the continued occupation of Georgian territories it would be too early to resume talks on a new partnership agreement with Russia,” the presidents of Poland and Lithuanian said in a joint declaration last weekend. “We underline that negotiations on the EU and Russia agreement should be renewed only when Russia withdraws its troops from Georgia to the positions held prior to August 7th.”

Updates on Georgia

Georgia newsletter 6-13 November, 2008

Elections in Adjara & Tbilisi

Elections for the local parliament in the Adjara Autonomous Republic—as well as Parliamentary by-elections in Tbilisi—were held Monday in a “most peaceful and quiet environment, without significant violations,” according to observers from the Council of Europe.

“In comparison with previous years, the election system was really improved,” said Gunter Kruger, the head of the CoE delegation and a member of the Berlin house of representatives. The Council’s positive judgment was echoed by almost all other local and international observers, numbering over 1,500 in total. There were 21 international and 9 local observer missions in Adjara, and slightly fewer in Tbilisi for the by-elections. They noted numerous advances made in several aspects of the electoral process, including fair access to the airwaves and to administrative resources for all accredited parties.

The extensive efforts to level the media playing field appeared to work. An independent consulting firm, Primetime, that monitored the quality and quantity of media exposure for political candidates said they generally received even-handed coverage. (The firm’s reports can be found at

The Central Election Commission also made extensive efforts to ensure that voters could easily register for the election and correct errors in the voter lists; imposed strict rules on the use of administrative resources; and undertook extensive public campaigns to encourage voter turnout, including by the physically impaired.

The Council of Europe delegation did note some electoral irregularities, but said that these did not have a material effect on the final tally. “Generally, the elections were conducted positively, but the delegation concludes that further revision of electoral procedures is needed,” said Kruger during his Tuesday press conference.

The United National Movement party of President Saakashvili won an easy victory in Adjara, despite not having mounted a major campaign. Meanwhile, the UNM did not contest the Parliamentary by-elections in Tbilisi, in a gesture aimed at increasing pluralism in a legislative body that UNM dominates. The two, single–mandate constituencies were won by Guram Chakhvadze of the National-Democratic Party and Tamaz Kvachantiradze of the Christian-Democratic Party.

“Although Adjara is a very important region for me and the results of elections there are important for Georgia, neither I nor the central authorities participated in the election campaign,” said President Saakashvili after the vote. “I asked the National Movement not to put ads on the central TV channels and we have not spent significant funds on advertising.”

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Next Round of Geneva Talks

Recently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation has been falsely accusing the Georgian side for abandoning Geneva discussions on October 15 and not planning to take part in the next round of negotiations on November 18, 2008. Such claims are absolutely groundless and represent yet another example of Soviet type propaganda aimed at misleading the international community.

Georgia believes that the moderators have done an outstanding job in organizing the first round of the Geneva discussions. The existing format of the talks creates all the preconditions for successful conduct of the second and future rounds. Georgia stands ready to continue constructive engagement in the Geneva talks, as we have done on October 15.

It is not Georgia, but the Russian Federation, and its proxy regimes of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, who are responsible for the suspension of the first round of Geneva talks. As is well known, the Russian side boycotted the plenary session, which was attended by the representatives of the UN, EU, OSCE, as the moderators, and Georgia and the United States of America, as participants. This was the format agreed among all parties. Moreover, the Russian side and the proxy regimes of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region also boycotted the meetings of the working groups, where, as agreed in advance, the participants were to take part on an informal level to discuss the issues related to the security and stability in Abkhazia, Georgia, and the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Georgia, as well as the safe and dignified return of the IDPs to their places of residence.

The Georgian side is looking forward to taking part in the next round of negotiations in Geneva on November 18, in the format agreed among all parties. We also hope that this time the Russian Federation will participate in the plenary, as a demonstration of its dedication to the peace process. The Geneva format, in our opinion, is a good way forward to solve the existing problems and discuss outstanding issues. The Georgian side, on its part, will be closely cooperating with the moderators and all the interested parties to make sure that the next meeting within the Geneva format takes place on November 18, as planned.

Tbilisi, 3 November, 2008