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Tbilisi did not expect this “surprise” from Europe2008-11-05 09:44
The celebratory mood of the Georgian authorities on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the ‘Rose Revolution' has been somewhat dampened by news from Europe.
Following the array of good news - for example, a "gold rush" from international donors in Brussels and comprehensive international support, - some not so good news has rained down on Tbilisi. The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has prepared a news item exposing the crimes committed by Georgian soldiers against South Ossetian civilians. An international commission has been established to study the August conflict between Georgia and Russia. And the European Parliament emphasized that the humanitarian aid allocated by donors is also intended for Abkhazians and Ossetians.
Tbilisi was perhaps at least somewhat heartened by reports that the European Union is planning a second round of talks on Georgia's conflict regions, where it will raise the question of sending its own peacekeepers to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But Europe immediately dampened the mood of Saakashvili's team, repeating as if as a mantra that because of the war in Georgia Russia will end up in international isolation. But then came the announcement that the EU is ready to renew talks over a new agreement with Russia. It is difficult to say which of these reports is more distressing for Tbilisi.
As far as the allegations of inappropriate use of force by Georgian soldiers are concerned, respective officials are categorically denying even the very possibility of this. As Radio Svoboda reports, Georgia's Defence Ministry has called the BBC's film "provocation from Moscow". Saakashvili said that, "crimes were committed, but not by us". The Chief of the General Staff of Georgia's armed forces Zaza Gogava spoke out in defence of the president's position, stressing that he received a strict order from the head of state to conduct the military operations in such a way as to minimise losses among the civilian population of Ossetia. The Georgian opposition was also aggrieved by the charges levelled at their homeland. Hence the Republican Levan Berdzenishvili noted that the main crimes and even atrocities were committed by Russians, "although there were crimes on both sides". Despite the fact that Tbilisi will simply not accept such "attacks", Georgian human rights activists are more and more actively speaking out in favour of carrying out an international investigation into the human rights violations during the August war.
In any event, a few days ago France's Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner declared that an international commission, headed by a Swiss expert, would be set up to study the August conflict between Georgia and Russia. Its activities "will allow us to establish the responsibilities of the event's participants and obtain a more detailed picture of what happened". "Georgia and Russia will have to open up their archives, in order to establish the truth - as to whose initiative the war was. After this, members of the commission will question the defence ministers of both countries," said Kouchner, expressing hope that the Russian authorities would cooperate with the commission. No comments have yet been received from the Russian Foreign Ministry.
The commission will probably uncover at least some portion of the truth, which will be unflattering for both the Russian and Georgian military. After all, it was just as in any other war: unwarranted killings, looting - both sides sinned in this way. Meanwhile, 24 Hours reports that Tbilisi's assessment of Kouchner's statement was positive. "Georgia is interested in the work of the international commission which is investigating the August events," remarked the Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria. And the State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili actually said that the commission was created at the request of the Georgian party.