Russia seeks EU recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions

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Russian Ambassador to the EU Vladimir Chizhov has signalled that Moscow would make any progress on the EU’s observation mission in Georgia conditional upon Europe offering international recognition to representatives of Georgia’s breakaway regions.

Speaking to the press in Brussels on Thursday (2 September), Chizhov said international negotiations due to take place on 15 October in Geneva would be “pointless” without the participation of representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. 

The Geneva talks were launched under a peace plan brokered on 8 September by EU envoys led by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. 

Abkhazia and South Ossetia declared independence from Georgia in August following a short war between Georgia and Russia. So far, they have only been recognised by Russia and Nicaragua. 

“There is common understanding at this point that the Geneva discussions will take place, at least initially, at expert level,” said Chizhov. “What’s more important is the circle of participants,” he added. “I think it’s obvious for any unbiased observer that without the participation of representatives of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, these discussions will be pointless.” 

The Russian ambassador added that if Western countries wanted the mandate of the EU observer mission (EUMM) to be extended to the two breakaway regions, they would have to “reach agreement with South Ossetia and Abkhazia authorities”. 

His comments came hot on the heels of controversy which first emerged last month over the area covered by the EU mission (EURACTIV 11/09/08). The Russian side made it clear that EU observers would not be allowed into the breakaway regions, which Moscow had recognised as independent states in the meantime. 

Chizhov also made a UN peace-keeping initiative conditional on receiving the blessing of South Ossetian and Abkhaz authorities. The mandate of the 140-strong UN observation mission to Abkhazia would expire on 15 October, he explained. Abkhazia would only agree to the extension of the mandate if the mission was renamed, said Chizhov, adding that the mission’s current title, UNOMIG (United Nations Observer Mission to Georgia), was irrelevant. 

“A UN mission to Georgia has nothing to do in Abkhazia,” Chizhov said.

The Council of the European Union confirmed that the Geneva talks would take place on 15 October, but declined to comment further on Chizhov’s statements.  

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