NATO concerned over bordering activities in Georgia's breakaway republics

By Sabina Idayatova

NATO is concerned by the situation on the Georgia-South Ossetia border, where Russian forces put up wire fences along the border last week, NATO's envoy for the South Caucasus and Central Asia James Appathurai said in Tbilisi on June 3 .

Russian border guards began demarcation work in several Georgian villages in the borderline area of Shida Kartli region, Georgian sources reported on May 27. In particular, the so-called border with South Ossetia moved 300 meters deep into the village of Ditsi.

Appathurai said that the building of illegal dividing structures is a violation of existing agreements.

"This is illegal and considered as violation of existing agreements, as well as interfere with the free movement of people," Appathurai said.

Earlier, EU observers condemned construction of barbed wire fences on the administrative border between Georgia and South Ossetia as unacceptable, and said it may destabilize the situation in the region.

Russia's Foreign Ministry released a letter on Monday condemning what is said were attempts "to stoke up the situation" on the border between South Ossetia and Georgia with an eye to the election campaign in Georgia, and "shifting the blame" to Russia.

Georgia broke off diplomatic relations with Russia after their August 2008 war over the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia lost one-fifth of its territory after the two republics broke away. Tbilisi announced the two unrecognized republics as occupied territories in September 2008.

Appathurai, who is on visit to Tbilisi to attend NATO week, further said that NATO supports Georgia's territorial integrity, and appreciates its contribution to international security.

Different events are planned for the NATO week in Georgia. Meetings are planned with students and local non-government organizations, while events will be held in different regions all over the country.

The week will end on June 10 with a NATO youth summit.

Accession to NATO is one of the top foreign policy priorities of Georgia. Soon after the declaration of independence, Georgia joined the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Georgia's bilateral relations with NATO were established in 1994 when the country joined the Partnership for Peace program (PfP). At the informal meeting of NATO foreign ministers in 2006 it was decided to launch Intensified Dialogue on Membership Issues with the South Caucasus republic.

Georgia as a significant contributor to Euro-Atlantic security is closely involved in NATO-led operations and its contribution to the NATO-led ISAF operation in Afghanistan is of significant importance. Nowadays, Georgia is the second largest troop contributor to Afghanistan among the non-NATO states.