Save Georgia’s Peace Mission

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Now, Moscow has taken aim at the only major international organisation with a solid track record in Georgia, the 56-member Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE). The OSCE has been in Georgia for more than 15 years: monitoring unstable areas in and around South Ossetia, promoting conflict resolution, supporting minority issues, helping lay the foundations for democracy and the rule of law, and criticizing electoral fraud. In South Ossetia it even facilitated economic rehabilitation projects between ethnic Georgians and Ossetians until the August war.

Last Month, OSCE member states met in Vienna to work on a Greek-sponsored compromise to keep the OSCE in Georgia, one of the final steps in thorny negotiations which have been going on since January. But Moscow shot down the Greek proposal, which had already been heavily amended to try to address Russian concerns, by preventing it from coming up for a vote.

There are several possible reasons why Russia wants the OSCE out of Georgia, one of the Organization's biggest and most important missions.

Moscow could be reluctant for the world to see what has gone on inside South Ossetia under its eight-month military "liberation" activities.

Russia's huge military might did not prevent South Ossetian militias from driving about 25,000 ethnic Georgians from their homes. In many cases local militias burned, looted, and even bulldozed villages as Russian troops stood by, in actions that Human Rights Watch has called "crimes against humanity" and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe termed "ethnic cleansing".

By closing the OSCE in Georgia, Russia also adds another front in its long-term diplomatic endeavour to undermine the efficiency of the OSCE as a whole. Since 1975, the Organization has helped promote European peace and security. But for years now, Moscow has been unhappy with the group's focus on human rights, media freedom and fair elections as the best way to encourage stability. Russia has used the political tools available to it as a member state to delay and obstruct the Organization's smooth functioning. Moscow has, for example, repeatedly delayed the passage of the OSCE's annual budget.

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