Threat of Large-Scale Conflict Real

The threat of large-scale conflict in South Ossetia "is becoming more real," the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs has warned.

It said in a statement on August 3, that Tbilisi’s actions on the ground contradicted its "declarations" on the need of urgent measures to defuse tensions in South Ossetia.

"Late on August 2 and overnight on August 3 Georgia was conducting open military maneuvers close to Tskhinvali and sending forces and military hardware to the conflict zone," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Sunday.

The authorities in Tskhinvali have also leveled similar allegations, which were strongly denied by officials in Tbilisi earlier on August 3.

Moscow has blamed Tbilisi for the new wave of tensions saying that situation started to exacerbate overnight on August 2, when "a massive mortar shelling of residential areas of Tskhinvali resulted into casualties" among local residents.

"The threat of large-scale military actions between Georgia and South Ossetia is becoming more real," the Russian Foreign Ministry said in the statement.

It also said that recent tensions have again prioritized the need to sign an agreement on non-use of force between the Georgian and South Ossetian sides.

"Undertaking these commitments [on non-use of force] would allow averting threat of war in the region," it added. "Forceful scenario of developments would finally ruin hopes for resolving of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict."

It said that resumption of talks in frames of the quadripartite Joint Control Commission was also a priority in order to help defuse tensions.

"The course undertaken by the Georgian side towards undermining JCC is especially counterproductive in the existing situation," the Russian MFA said. "The OSCE mission in Georgia has to take more a active and clear position in support for urgent resumption of our joint work in framework of the JCC."

Negotiators from the Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian and Russia’s North Ossetian side make a quadripartite negotiating body, JCC, which is deemed by Tskhinvali and Moscow to be the main tool for negotiations. But Tbilisi pulled out from this Russian-dominated body in March.

Tbilisi has instead proposed to replace the JCC with a new negotiating body based on a 2+2+2 formula. The North Ossetian side, according to this proposal, would be replaced by the South Ossetian provisional administration and the OSCE and EU would also be included.

Another option for Tbilisi seems to be talks in the format involving the South Ossetian side, Russia and EU, or OSCE; Tskhinvali, however, says the North Ossetian side should also be represented.

The Russian MFA also said that it was undertaking "persistent efforts" through diplomatic channels, as well as through its peacekeepers on the ground to help defuse tensions in the region.

[Source: Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 03Aug08]

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The Question of South Ossetia
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