Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian Sides Meet to Defuse Tensions in the Conflict Zone

The first meeting of Russian, Georgian and South Ossetian sides in accordance with the terms of the incident prevention and response mechanism agreed upon during negotiations in Geneva in February was held today in the Georgian village of Ergneti close to the border between the breakaway region of South Ossetia and Georgia proper. The representatives from OSCE and EU Monitoring Mission also attended this meeting. According to Shota Utiashvili, head of the Analytical and Information Department of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs, who headed the Georgian delegation, the sides failed to make “progress on concrete issues.” The Russian representative, first deputy chief of General Staff, Lieutenant-General Sergei Antonov told the Itar-Tass news agency that the sides agreed to meet twice a month and to establish a 24-hour phone hotline to report incidents. Even though the Georgian side already selected an officer from the Shida Kartli police department to be liaison officer for that purpose, Utiashvili expressed skepticism about the feasibility of the new communications channel. The meeting could not have been timelier considering the recent increase in Russian military presence in South Ossetia, shooting incident on April 22 on the border between South Ossetia and Georgia and the temporary detention of two OSCE observers by the South Ossetian separatists on April 21.

[Photo Credit: Russian checkpoint at the entrance to the Georgian village of Akhmaji on the border between Russian-occupied South Ossetia and Georgia. April 13, 2009. Photo courtesy of Associated Press Photo/Sergei Grits.]