EU to send fact-finders to Georgian conflict zones

August 27th, 2008 - 5:47 pm ICT by IANS  

Brussels, Aug 27 (DPA) The European Union (EU) is to send a fact-finding mission as close to Georgia’s conflict zones as possible in order to assess the practicalities of sending ceasefire monitors to the region, officials in Brussels said Wednesday.EU staff based in Tbilisi should deploy immediately and report back to Brussels before the end of the week, diplomatic sources said.

Their task is to study the situation on the ground, so that EU officials can then decide whether it would be possible to send more staff to the area to monitor the brittle peace between Russia and Georgia.

At an emergency meeting held in Brussels Aug 13, EU foreign ministers agreed in principle to deploy observers to Georgia following the conclusion of an EU-brokered ceasefire.

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) has already sent around 20 monitors to Georgia and is set to send up to 80 more in the coming weeks.

The EU is keen to make its presence felt on the ground, and the Georgian government is reportedly eager to reinforce the international presence around the conflict zones.

However, given Russia’s overwhelming military presence in and around the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Moscow’s decision Tuesday to recognize the two regions’ independence and the bitter criticism this provoked in the West, the EU seems unlikely to get Russian permission to enter the conflict zones themselves.

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