Russia removes first checkpoint in Georgia, withdrawal welcomed

October 5th, 2008 - 6:21 pm ICT by IANS  

Tbilisi (Georgia)/Moscow, Oct 5 (DPA) Members of the European Union (EU) observer mission in Georgia reported Sunday that a Russian checkpoint north-west of the Georgian city of Gori was removed five days ahead of an agreed deadline.According to a spokeswoman for the mission, the EU is assuming that the Russian army will leave its security zones around the breakaway republics of South Ossetia and Abkhazia by October 10.

After that time, the EU mission will enter these “buffer zones.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier welcomed the beginning of the Russian pullout, saying “that is a positive initial step, that must be followed by others.”

In a statement released in Berlin, he added that “for the stabilization of the Caucasus and the upcoming talks in Geneva, it is important that the Russian withdrawal from the buffer zones around South Ossetia and Abkhazia is concluded quickly and in due time.”

The broader issue of Georgia’s long-term security is due to be addressed at a peace conference in Geneva scheduled for Oct 15.

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