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Radio Station Ekho Moskvy interviews Ambassador Haber, Head of EUMM


Q: What is your understanding of who started the war in August 2008?
The investigation will take time. The mission EUIM (European Union Investigation Mission), headed by the Swiss diplomat Heidi Tagliavini, deals with these issues and will produce the relevant report.  It makes my job easier not to be responsible for these issues as the international investigation looks into it.
Q: What comment would you make regarding the article in newspaper Spiegel about the evidence of Georgia starting the war?
Spiegel has not enough details. They refer to the quote of the Georgian General about restoring constitutional order in the country but there are no additional details.
Q: How would you comment on the 6 point agreement between Medvedev-Sarkozy. Are the parties honouring the obligations?
We are satisfied with the compliance of the Georgian side.  As French Minister of Foreign Affairs said last December, the Russian side has not yet implemented all of the provisions.
Q: Since you are not let into the territories, why can’t the EU open separate missions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia? Are you trying to get access from the Russian side?We are trying to get agreement for access not only from Russia but from the Abkhazian and South Ossetian sides as well.  We are still hoping that we will be able to obtain it. They say our approach is biased but they first need to let us have access in order for us to gather information on the ground there as well, and then we will know what is going on.
Q: How would you comment on the accusations of bias against EU regarding the fact that EU pressures Belorussia not to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
We work within the framework of the wider EU approach.  Accordingly, non-recognition is part of this.  The mandate of our mission is normalization, stabilization and confidence building and this is a mutual goal.
Q: Diplomatic language is not always clear.  What does the normalization mean?Normalisation is the return of IDPs.  Confidence building means that both sides start to talk and co-operate on incident prevention.
Q: Have you put forward the request for access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia towards Moscow?
Yes, we have raised this issue but Russia views the two entities as independent countries, so, they regard the EUMM mandate as covering only Georgia, which, to Russia, does not include Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Q: How can you talk about implementation of Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement if you have no access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia?
We appeal for access but so far we have not been able to enter these territories.
Q: What about the Georgian military build up?
We visit locations on the ground, check them but so far we have never found grounds to confirm such a build up.  We have an agreement with the Georgian government and they fully comply with it.
Q: What about excessive concentration of police forces in the so called “buffer zones”.  They also cause concern.
The main thing is that the police have no heavy military equipment.  They might have had a military training but they comply with the principle of non-use of force and they are not armed heavily enough to pose a threat.
Q: Will there be concrete steps taken for the return of IDPs?  Don’t you think that the co-existence of Abkhaz and Georgian people is impossible?
We meet with IDPs and all of them say that they want to return.  They say they lived very well with their neighbours and I believe this.  We support the right of return and we do not see why they should be denied access.
Q: Will they be able to live in peace after the war?
The IDPs from Abkhazia are from the conflict of 1990’s.  There are about 30,000 IDPs from South Ossetia.  Even if their houses are destroyed there will be means to restore them if there will be a political will to return them.
Q: What can you do to prevent future conflict?
EUMM works for confidence building among all the sides. The incident prevention mechanism supports this cause.
Q: Since the mission began what is the situation with regards to level of trust?
When we started monitoring, the war had recently ended.  Now, more than half a year passed, which, to a certain extent, has reduced tensions.  We have concluded an agreement with the Ministry of Defence regarding some limitations of armed forces along the Administrative Boundary Line, which increases the level of trust.  This is also a confidence building measure.  I think that the Russians and Ossetians evaluate it positively even if they are not very vocal about it.
Q: If you really want to monitor these areas why not set up separate missions?
EU does not recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, it is a legal issue.  I think they can still allow us into these territories, as this will increase security, which is in their interest as well, but they can continue to disagree with our stance with regarding the status.
Q: How would you compare the return process of Serbs in Kosovo and Georgians in South Ossetia?
I am not an expert on Kosovo issues but the Georgian situation is different, as Georgians are unable to return.
Q: Is there a perspective to prosecute those who are responsible for killing a peaceful population and burning Georgian villages?
This is not part of our mandate.
Q: How do you evaluate the situation in the adjacent areas?
The situation is more stable than we expected.  Six policemen have been killed since the EUMM starting monitoring and about 12-13 in total have been killed since the war ended.  Of course this is very sad, but this is less than we expected.  Shooting continues often at night, locals complain about it, but no casualties have been reported.
Q: Are the shootings happening from both sides?
It is difficult to say.  Our monitors are not always on the spot.  This is part of the incident prevention mechanism as all sides need to talk about it.
Q: Has anyone been charged with the shootings so far?
We do not have information about anybody having been detained but locals from the Georgian side complain that the shooting is coming form the other side.
Q: If you are not let into these territories will you consider the mission to be a failure?
No, we will continue trying and this is in the interest of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as well.

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