Ambassador Hansjörg Haber, Head of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), had a meeting today, 17 August, with the Georgian Minister of Internal Affairs, Ivane Merabishvili.
Ambassador Haber praised the constructive cooperation between EUMM and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
He reported that, following the withdrawal of the Russian armed forces from the areas adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia, EUMM's main focus had shifted to the stabilisation and normalisation of the situation in those areas. EUMM had observed the return of many internally displaced persons (IDPs) to their villages in the past few days. Ambassador Haber said that although their rapid return was a desirable goal it posed several challenges. The issue of unexploded ordnance (UXO) was a very important one.
AmbassadorHaber said EUMM monitors and non-governmental organisations had reported discoveries of dangerous unexploded material.. Serious demining efforts were under way but it would still take some time to clear the affected areas.
He voiced his concern that IDPs might be encouraged to return too quickly to areas that had not yet been demined in accordance with international standards. The population might be exposed to a serious risk. It was imperative, he said, to provide the population with accurate information on the risks of unexploded mines in order to raise public awareness. He offered EUMM's assistance in increasing UXO awareness operations with the public.