Georgia backs immediate observers, OSCE head says

Georgia Materials 19 August 2008 17:01 (UTC +04:00)

Georgia on Tuesday gave its approval for an observation mission from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to deploy to its conflict zone with Russia, clearing the way for the mission to leave at once.

"I just spoke to (Georgian) President (Mikheil) Saakashvili and he gave a green light for the military and police observers ... so there's a political deal but of course we need final confirmation from Vienna," Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country currently holds the OSCE's presidency, told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.

The agreement means that 20 OSCE observers will be able to leave for Georgia immediately, with another 71 set to leave "at a later stage," Stubb said.

The OSCE has been pressing for observers to be allowed into the zone of recent fighting between Georgia and Russia over the breakaway Georgian region of South Ossetia.

An emergency meeting in Vienna on Monday ended without result after Russia said that observers should only deploy once its own troops have left Georgian territory.

However, on Tuesday morning Russia approved a compromise proposal allowing the observers to deploy to regions "adjacent to" the conflict zone of South Ossetia.

The OSCE is already mandated to maintain nine observers in South Ossetia, but they pulled out after fighting broke out on August 7. Stubb said that they should return to their posts once the security situation allowed.