The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) said in its press-release on September 16 that “a substantial, continuing presence of armed security actors in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area” and establishment of multiple new positions across the occupation line, deep into Tbilisi-administered territory, along with “the concentration of armed personnel increases the potential for encounters and constitutes a risk to stability.”
According to the EUMM, Georgian observation post was established between 20 and 24 August on the outskirts of the village of Tsnelisi by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MIA) Special Tasks Department, some 240 meters away from the boundary line, inside the Tbilisi-administered territory.
According to EUMM, “security actors from South Ossetia have in the last week established new positions and installed a number of borderisation features, including ‘green signs’ and flags on the Tbilisi-administered territory side of the ABL as traditionally understood in this area”, EUMM noted.
“In the meantime, Georgian MIA units have also reinforced their presence in the Chorchana forest area”, EUMM added.
Extraordinary Technical Meetings within IPRM Format
The statement underlined that the EUMM and OSCE have since 29 August facilitated four extraordinary technical meetings within the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) format “to defuse tensions and to identify possible concrete solutions for a more permanent de-escalation.”
The EUMM said that the last technical meeting took place on September 13 in Ergneti adjacent to occupied Tskhinvali Region “was held in a professional atmosphere but with positions remaining irreconcilable.”
It however, noted that “positively, all participants reaffirmed their commitment to some basic principles to avoid a further escalation in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area, while remaining committed to finding a peaceful solution. It is important that these commitments are reflected in the actual presence and activities on the ground.”
EUMM: “Crossing Points Closure Negatively Impact Commuters”
Speaking of the closure of crossing points between the occupied region and Georgia proper, the Mission noted that two crossing points at the occupation line with Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia – Odzisi and Sinaguri – have remained closed since 20:00 on 4 September 2019.
“No concrete indication has been given as to when they will reopen, while statements from security actors in South Ossetia have linked the closures to the ongoing developments in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area,” EUMM added.
The Mission emphasized that it sees “these measures as harmful restrictions of movement, which negatively impact commuters from both sides of the ABL, especially affecting the population living in or regularly commuting to the Akhalgori valley.”
“The closed crossings points, according to regular Freedom of Movement Surveys conducted by EUMM, would typically see around 400 crossings daily in both directions”, the statement added.
The EUMM said it is closely monitoring events in the area of Chorchana-Tsnelisi on the occupation line. It stressed that the “mission patrols have maintained a constant presence in that area since 24 August.”
The statement also noted that the EUMM-managed hotline is being actively used to exchange information and address questions across the dividing line. “The EUMM follows up on hotline activations through its constant patrolling presence on the ground”, it added.