Georgian observers under fire

  • 2008-11-19
  • In cooperation with BNS

VILNIUS- Lithuanians part of the EU monitoring mission haveobserved the situation on the Georgian- Abkhazia region border to be complicatedas the group, along with Italian observers, came under fire. 

Mission spokesman Steve Bird commented that the group wasshot at during an investigation of a murder of a Georgian police officer, Birdtold BNS on Nov 18 that theItalians served in the same office of EU monitors based in Zugdidi, as the Lithuanians.

"We have made it very clear that they (EU monitors) were not in theAbkhaz territory, they were 40 meters on the Georgian side of theadministrative boundary line. The EU monitoring mission's mandate covers thewhole of Georgia and wherever they may be it is not acceptable for them to beshot at. It is a civilian unarmed mission seeking to build confidence with allthe different sides that are involved at the moment. (...) This is the firstincident where firing has taken place near our monitors,"Bird said.

A total of five monitors from Lithuaniawork in the EU mission in Georgia, in addition to two more officials inTbilisi.

In Bird's words, the situation at the borders of Georgia's separatistregions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is different. He described the situationon the South Ossetian border as being better.

"The main difficulty as far as the EU monitoring mission is concernedis that it has been very difficult to try and make any contact with Abkhaz andRussian authorities and discuss with them the situation on the boundary lineand access across the checkpoints. At the moment, we haven't been able toestablish who are the best people to contact and build up discussions aboutthese issues. It's different in South Ossetia. Some of the other organizationshave been able to make contact with the South Ossetian de facto interiorminister and the local Russian troop commander. (...) But the situation on theAbkhaz border is much more complicated," said Bird.

Georgia and Russia have been in disagreement for over a decade with regardsto control of Georgia's separatist territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.Russia is also opposed to Georgia's NATO bid. This conflict reached itsculmination in the beginning of August, at which time military actions werecommenced in South Ossetia and soon extended to other regions of Georgia. SouthOssetia and Abkhazia declared independence, however, their independence wasrecognized by only Russia and Nicaragua.

The mission is comprised of 200 monitors observing the situation andorganizing the return of refugees who fled their homes during the armed attacksover the Georgian territory in August 2008.