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Co-facilitators on Initiated Resumption of Ergneti IPRM Meetings

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The co-facilitators of the Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), the Head of the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia Marek Szczygieł and the OSCE Special Representative Rudolf Michalka said in a joint statement released on July 21 that they initiated preparations for the 96th Ergneti IPRM meeting planned for July 30.

IPRMs in Ergneti have been stalled since late August, when Tskhinvali representatives, angered by Tbilisi’s construction of a police checkpoint in Chorchana near the dividing line, disrupted the 95th meeting.

Ambassador Szczygieł and Ambassador Michalka said that during the past weeks, the co-facilitators conducted intensive consultations in order to explore the possibility of restarting meetings in the Ergneti IPRM format.

Highlighting “the importance of dialogue for reducing tensions and preventing incidents” along the Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetian occupation line, the co-facilitators said they welcome the recent statements by the IPRM participants on their willingness to resume dialogue.

They also noted “the participants’ active use of the EUMM-managed Hotline.”

Earlier Developments along Tskhinvali Occupation Line

The IPRM co-facilitators’ statement comes as tensions are again flaring up along the Tskhinvali occupation line, few weeks before the 12th anniversary of the Russo-Georgian war.

The Georgian State Security Service told Civil.ge on July 20 that the Moscow-backed Tskhinvali authorities had started criminal proceedings against two detained Georgian citizens Zaza Gakheladze and Khvicha Mghebrishvili.

Tskhinvali KGB announced on July 16 that Mghebrishvili, detained on July 3 for violating the “state border,” attempted to infiltrate into the region “to collect the colonies of bats” from Tskhinvali district. Tbilisi decried renewed bio-warfare allegations as “lies” and “staged provocation.”

A day earlier, on July 15, the Russian Foreign Ministry “noted with concern” that “the illegal border crossings of Russian, Abkhazian and [Tskhinvali] South Ossetian borders from the Georgian side” has become more frequent and maintained the incidents were of “provocative nature.”

On July 11, Russian occupation forces in Tskhinvali detained another Georgian Zaza Gakheladze for “illegally crossing the border of South Ossetia.” Ossetian prosecutor said Gakheladze “used firearms and fired at least five shots against one of the border guards.” Tskhinvali announced on July 18 that detained Gakheladze was placed under quarantine amid pandemic concerns.

Georgian State Security Service slammed wounding and detaining Gakheladze as “dangerous precedent,” while the Georgian Foreign Ministry accused Russia of provocations and gross violations of human rights of the local population.

The family of Gakheladze told Georgian media that the young man was detained 150 meters deeper into Tbilisi-controlled territory, near the Skhvilo Fortress, while picking mushrooms.

As part of the accusation series, Tskhinvali also slammed EUMM statement over Gakheladze’s detention, noting that the sole observation mission on the ground made biased statements in favor of Georgia.

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