Tuesday, September 23, 2008

France: EU Monitors In Georgia Could Be Armed

PARIS (AP) — EU observers being sent near Georgia's breakaway regions could be armed for security reasons, France's Foreign Ministry said Tuesday, despite earlier pledges that the monitors would not carry weapons.

France is sending 31 observers to Georgia on Wednesday as part of a broader EU deal to send 200 people to help monitor areas where tensions still simmer after a brief war between Russia and Georgia last month, ministry spokesman Frederic Desagneaux said.

"It is a civilian mission, but there are clearly security procedures that are applied, and that do not prevent ... some of them from being armed," he told a news conference in Paris.

He gave no details about the possible weapons they could carry or their mandate to use them. France holds the rotating EU presidency.

Under an accord reached by the presidents of Russia and France earlier this month, Moscow pledged to withdraw its forces from Georgian areas outside breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia once the 200 EU observers are in place. The EU mission will deploy by Oct. 1.

Earlier, EU officials had said the monitors would be unarmed.

War erupted between Georgia and Russia on Aug. 7 when Georgia launched an attack to regain control over South Ossetia. Russia sent in troops who quickly routed the Georgian forces and pushed deep into Georgia.

Moscow has refused to let EU monitors into Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which Russia recognized as independent nations after the war. Russia also has balked at letting more monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe into South Ossetia, the site of heavy looting and burning of Georgian homes.

The OSCE had hoped to send an additional 80 unarmed observers to South Ossetia, but talks with Russia broke down last week. The OSCE mission is separate from the EU one.

The region remains tense. On Sunday, a Georgian police officer was killed and three others wounded Sunday by fire from separatist Abkhazian fighters. Another two Georgian officers were wounded Monday when they went to the area to investigate and stepped on a land mine.

Source: AP.Org - Google.Com

No comments:

Post a Comment