Dec 13, 2009

EU monitors in Georgia call on Russian forces to pull back from disputed village

European Union monitors in Georgia called on Russian forces on Saturday to pull back from a disputed village and honour their commitments under the Six Point Agreement negotiated by the International community.

Head of mission Hansjorg Haber said Russia remained in violation of an EU-brokered ceasefire agreement that called for the withdrawal of all forces to pre-war positions.

`The biggest difference between the European Union and Russia is of course point five, withdrawal of the Russians to the previous lines, to the lines held before the war. From the legal position of the European Union Russia has not complied with this point,` Ambassador Haber told Reuters on the anniversary of the initial withdrawal of the Russian troops from the Georgian village Perevi.

Two months after the war, at the heart of a key energy transit region to the West, Russian forces pulled back from a buffer zone inside Georgia proper, but they kept soldiers in the village of Perevi, which lies outside South Ossetia, angering Georgians.

Though Russian troops pulled back from Perevi on December 12, 2008, they returned on the same day when Georgian forces moved in.

`Perevi checkpoint is clearly outside Ossetia. It`s still being held by Russian forces. It`s now one year ago that the Russians evacuated the checkpoint after the Russian European Summit in Nice and on the same day they reoccupied it, pointing to a massive presence of Georgians immediately after the withdrawal,` Haber said.

Haber also said the appeal was clearly directed to the Russian government and they have to resolve this problem.

`We have, in the meantime, agreed with the Georgian Ministry of Interior about the framework for a reoccupation of the checkpoint in the case of another, final Russian withdrawal and it will in this event run much smoother. So I think the time has come to solve this problem,` he said.

Russia has recognised South Ossetia and Georgia`s other rebel region, Abkhazia, as independent states and say several thousand troops are in both territories on the basis of bilateral agreements.