EU confirms Russian withdrawal from Georgian buffer zones
The European Union's foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, confirmed Friday that Russia has withdrawn its troops from Georgia's buffer zones, in accordance with an international deal.
"I am happy to announce that EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) patrols have confirmed that Russian armed forces have completed their planned withdrawal from the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Solana said in a statement, reported dpa.
"This withdrawal will, we hope, allow internally displaced people to return to their homes and contribute to the normalisation of living conditions in these areas," the EU's High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy said.
Under a deal brokered on September 8 by French President Nicolas Sarkozy on behalf of the EU, Russia was given until October 10 to pull out of core Georgia following the August conflict.
Russia said it had handed over control of the buffer zones to the EU observer mission on Thursday, one day before the deadline's expiry.
Solana said he hoped the presence of EU monitors in the buffer zones adjacent to the two breakaway enclaves would help "decrease tensions, contribute to a sense of security and enhance respect for the rule of law."
His office confirmed that Russian armed forces had dismantled 12 checkpoints and one military base in the zone adjacent to Abkhazia and five checkpoints and one signal post in the zone adjacent to South Ossetia.
The EU was expected to review its ties with Russia in the wake of Friday's announcement at a summit taking place in Brussels on Wednesday and Thursday.