Russia warns of new clashes in Caucasus if EU observers fail to fulfill obligation

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned Thursday new clashes may break out in the Caucasus region if the European Union (EU) observers fail to function as security guarantors. “Let’s keep in mind that the EU acts as the guarantor of the non-use of force against South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We are worried that EU observers have so far been paying little attention to such matters. This is a dangerous play with fire,” Lavrov told a briefing in Moscow .

“If a clear demilitarization regime under the control of EU representatives with the participation of OSCE and UN observers is not established, activities that could result in dangerous clashes could evolve in these zones,” he was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.

The Russian top diplomat accused Georgia of not fulfilling its obligations to return troops to their permanent deployment positions, saying it sent special troops and other military units to areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia from time to time.

Lavrov also dismissed claims by the Georgian Foreign Ministry that the number of Russian forces stationed in South Ossetia had increased from 2,000 to 7,000.

Russia had deployed about 3,700 troops in both South Ossetia and Abkhazia under friendship and cooperation agreements with the two republics, he said.

Russia sent in troops in August after Georgia launched a sudden attack to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russia recognized the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another breakaway Georgian republic, two weeks after the brief war.

Under a French-brokered ceasefire pact, Russia pulled out its troops from undisputed parts of Georgia by Oct. 10. An observer mission from the EU officially started to work in Georgia on Oct. 1 to monitor the implementation of ceasefire deals in the Caucasus conflict zone.

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