26th Oct 2016

France stymies call to expand EU mission in Georgia

  • The thin blue line - EUMM staff are the only international entity left in the post-conflict zone (Photo: EUobserver)

France has spoken out against proposals to add US or Turkish personnel to the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM).

The move could be a "provocation toward further incidents" as Georgia heads towards the one year anniversary of the war, French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner said at an EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels on Monday (27 July).

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"I believe this is not the right time to pose the question."

Italy, Cyprus and Belgium also voiced opposition to third party deployment. And the Swedish EU presidency ruled out any formal debate on the subject until autumn.

"A large majority of member states are of the view that we should maintain this as an EU operation," one EU diplomat said.

The UK, Finland, Lithuania and Estonia are continuing to campaign for outside intervention, however. Poland also supports EUMM expansion.

"I think it would probably be very welcome if the US and the EU worked together to ensure stability in Georgia," Lithuanian foreign minister Vygaudas Usackas told EUobserver.

Georgia last week publicly floated proposals to expand the EU mission following the departure of UN and OSCE monitors from the region.

But the EU and the US say they have not received any formal Georgian requests so far.

The US is mistrusted by Georgian rebel leaders in Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russian accusations that it supplied arms to Georgia and incited its attack on South Ossetia last August.

"Russia could interpret US involvement in the observation mission as military aid to Georgia and reject the idea, even if the de facto [rebel] authorities are not against it," Medea Turashvili, a Tbilisi-based analyst for the International Crisis Group, told this website.

The EU ministers on Monday extended the mandate of the existing EUMM until 14 September 2010 and called for monitors to have access to rebel-held zones.

The EU also postponed from 31 July until 30 September the deadline for a Swiss-led enquiry into the origins of the conflict.

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