TBILISI (AP)–The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe suspended talks on prolonging its presence in Georgia Thursday, but held out hope Russian resistance to a compromise would ease by a summer deadline.
The Vienna-based OSCE has to shut down its 16-year-old Georgia mission by June 30 after Moscow blocked the extension of its mandate late last year. A separate mandate for 20 unarmed military monitors currently operating in Georgia also expires on that date.
Greek Ambassador Mara Marinaki, whose country currently holds the OSCE’s rotating chairmanship, described the suspension as a “temporary drawback.”
“Nothing is final,” she told reporters.
Five months of informal talks were stymied Wednesday over Russia’s refusal to endorse a Greek compromise plan. The 56-nation OSCE operates by consensus and so one nation can block action.
The crux of the disagreement is that Russia considers Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia an independent state and wants other OSCE members to treat it as such. South Ossetia was at the center of a brief war between Georgia and Russia in August and tensions remain.
Marinaki said the Greek proposal remained on the table but that talks would be put on hold until further notice.
Anvar Azimov, Moscow’s permanent representative to the OSCE, said Moscow was not to blame for the impasse.
Russia “has consistently stood for continuation of the OSCE’s work on the territory of Georgia and South Ossetia,” he was quoted as saying by the RIA-Novosti news agency.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergo Kapanadze said the development “demonstrates the fact that Russia cannot meet its international obligations.”
Kyle Scott, Washington’s OSCE envoy, urged Moscow to reconsider “in the spirit of cooperation.”
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