PM Irakli Garibashvili said that there is no need to “cause an excessive stir and panic” over placement of border marking banners by the Russian troops in breakaway South Ossetia close to Georgia’s major east-west highway and in the area where a mile-long portion of the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline runs.
He said that Georgia tries to counter Russia’s “provocation” through using all the available “international levers.”
“I want to call on everyone to remain calm,” the Georgian PM told journalists in Tbilisi on July 14. “There is no need to cause an excessive stir and panic. The government knows what to do; the government knew what it was doing and we follow our path in a consistent and purposeful manner.”
“We should use all the available international levers calmly, but firmly and in a principled way. The fact that this territory was falling under occupants’ influence and that this territory was not under our control is known for everyone. Placing of these banners can be assessed as a provocation and completely unjustified move, especially against the background of our desire, which was backed by our actions over the past three years, to normalize relations with Russia through dialogue and to launch de-occupation process and restoration of [Tbilisi’s] control over these territories, but solely through peaceful means.”
“But in response we only see such provocations, which are absolutely unjustifiable, especially ahead of my special representative [for relations with Russia] Zurab Abashidze’s meeting with Karasin tomorrow in Prague,” the PM said, referring to Abashidze’s planned talks with Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin on July 15 in frames of the direct bilateral dialogue launched between the two countries in late 2012.
“So it is absolutely incomprehensible and unjustifiable such action [from Russia]. I hope that the Russian authorities will take interest in such provocations and this process will stop, because no one will benefit from it. We want to reiterate once again that we want to develop constructive, pragmatic relations, to resolve it and normalize relations through dialogue, but we will remain principled on issues, which concern our territories – our Abkhazia and Samachablo [breakaway South Ossetia],” PM Garibashvili said.
“Once again, I want call everyone for calm. We know very well what we have to do and we are using all the international levers,” he said.
Commenting specifically on 1,605-meter portion of the BP-operated Baku-Supsa oil pipeline, which fell beyond the “border marking” banners outside Tbilisi’s control, Garibashvili said that this pipeline is of “strategic importance not only for us, but also for several other countries.”
“I want to state that we and our partner countries will do everything in order to resolve it peacefully,” the Georgian PM said.
If this recent border marking activity close to the Tsitelubani village results into actual borderization, involving installing of barbed wires or fences, like it is at some other sections of the administrative boundary line of the breakaway region, locals will be cut from their farmlands. Head of the Georgian Interior Ministry’s information and analytical department, Shalva Enukidze, said on July 12 that during a “conversation with representatives of the Russian occupying forces’ border guard service, they assured us that the local population will be able to harvest” the farmlands, which fell beyond the border markers.
U.S. Department of State spokesperson, John Kirby, said when asked about the issue at a daily press briefing on July 13, that the U.S. position on Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains “clear.”
“These regions are integral parts of Georgia. We reaffirm our strong support for Georgia’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and independence. We once again urge Russia to fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, to reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states, and to provide free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions,” Kirby said.
A group of activists from Tbilisi, who arrived at the breakaway region’s administrative boundary on July 14, tore down the banner marking “South Ossetian state border” close to the village of Tsitelubani.