Situation Calms Down in S.Ossetia, But Sources of Tensions Remain

The main road into the South Ossetian conflict zone, which has been closed for several weeks, was reportedly re-opened on Sunday after Georgian State Minister Giorgi Khaindrava warned, on July 16, that the situation in the region is worsening because of “well-planned provocations.”
Relatives of four Georgians who went missing in the South Ossetian conflict zone on June 6 had previously been blocking the major road into the region,  which is of vital importance, for weeks in protest against, as they put it, the insufficient measures being undertaken by Tbilisi and Tskhinvali to find the whereabouts of the four men.
The overall situation in the region started to deteriorate on May 29 when four Ossetians and one Georgian policeman were killed in a shootout near the Georgian village of Tamarasheni. This incident was followed by the disappearance of four Georgians. Their whereabouts still remain unknown. 
None of these cases have been investigated yet, despite an agreement between the Georgian and Ossetian sides to jointly probe into these incidents. Tbilisi and Tskhinvali blame each other for the failure to launch an investigation.
Discussions of these incidents have topped the agenda of all recent talks between the Georgian and South Ossetian sides, which led to the demilitarization process of the conflict zone being removed from the agenda.
According to Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Giorgi Khaindrava, who is the chief negotiator in the resolution process of the South Ossetian conflict, this action was done deliberately by certain forces – pointing a finger at Moscow.
“We were predicting these kinds of developments, especially after Russia totally took over control in South Ossetia by appointing its [Russia’s] officials,” Khaindrava said, referring to the recent appointment of Russian citizen Yuri Morozov as the unrecognized republic’s Prime Minister.
Khaindrava said that both the May 29 and June 6 incidents are the part of “well-planned” provocations, which aim at increasing tensions among the local population in the conflict zone. He expressed fear that those who are interested in fueling tensions might manipulate the situation by stoking the anger of the relatives of the missing Georgians. “I think the information about the whereabouts of these men is being withheld deliberately in order to maintain the tense situation,” he added.
“I absolutely understand the relatives of those four Georgians, who have been missing for more than a month. They [relatives] know nothing about the fate [of those who disappeared],” Khaindrava said, adding that he rules out the possibility that these four persons were kidnapped as retaliation for the May 29 incident wherein four Ossetian militias were killed in a shootout with Georgian police.
This reopening of the road in the conflict zone is expected to defuse tensions, at least slightly. But without proper investigation, the May 29 and June 6 incidents will remain a source of different interpretations by Tbilisi and Tskhinvali and potential sources of tensions. Alternatively, the large number of arms and unauthorized Georgian and Ossetian checkpoints, as well as armed men in the conflict zone, might also undermine the fragile peace in the region at any time.


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