The 95th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meeting held in Ergneti, was “disrupted” following “a series of intense exchanges on the topic of Tsnelisi” between participants, EU Monitoring Mission reported.
Very difficult IPRM meeting in Ergneti today, co-facilitated by #EUMM. Meeting disrupted due to disagreements on how to respond to developments in area of Tsnelisi at South Ossetian ABL See joint press release of the 95th meeting here: https://t.co/bgmvZkN2zJ pic.twitter.com/lILuJEBK7e
— Erik Hoeg (@erik_hoeg) August 29, 2019
The escalation in Tsnelisi, most of which is under occupation and is administered from Tskhinvali, follows the construction of the Georgian police checkpoint in the neighboring Khashuri municipality.
Egor Kochiev, representative of Tskhinvali at IPRM told the journalists that the “South Ossetian delegation” demanded from Tbilisi to remove the police post until 6am on Friday, 30 August (4am CET). “If this condition is not met, the government of the republic [of South Ossetia] will take all legal measures for ensuring security of the South Ossetian people and for the protection of the state border”, Kochiev stated.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry subsequently expressed “concern about mobilisation of military equipment and personnel by the occupation forces at the occupation line” saying it represents “yet another provocation” by Tskhinvali. Representative of Tbilisi at IPRM, Irakli Antadze, Deputy Director of the Analytical Department of the State Service of Security of Georgia, said the police post was clearly located on the territory under Tbilisi jurisdiction, therefore all demands for its removal “where an absurdity saturated with cynicism”. Any “complications” would be a responsibility of Russia, Antadze said, as it represents “the power exercising effective control on occupied territories.” He pledged to remain “constructive” and “engaged with international partners” to resolve the tensions.
In his late-night tweet, Carl Hartzell, EU Ambassador to Georgia, called on all sides for restraint.
Situation around Chorchana, incl. close proximity of armed actors on both sides of the ABL and confrontational language used in today’s IPRM, is unacceptable. We expect all sides to show maximum restraint and use their influence to ensure situation doesn’t escalate.
— Carl Hartzell (@CarlHartzellEU) August 29, 2019
Dispute with history
This is not the first escalation concerning Tsnelisi, a village which is home to 26 persons, and lies south-west of Znauri district, bordering with Tbilisi-controlled territory on both sides – Kareli Municipality to the east and Khashuri Municipality to the west.
Tskhinvali made territorial claims already in June 2018, claiming parts of Tsnelisi fell under Tbilisi’s control “incorrectly”. According to the reports, the disputed portion includes a talcum mine with significant marble deposits. Local residents in a nearby village of Koda feared then, that Tskhinvali’s territorial claims, could cut their village off from the rest of Georgia, by cutting off the only functional road through village Abano.
The 95th IPRM meeting was co-facilitated by Mr. Erik Høeg, Head of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), and Ambassador Rudolf Michalka, Special Representative for the South Caucasus of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office.