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OSCE to End Peace Operation in Georgia

The New York Times reports:

The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe announced Monday that it would end its 16-year mission in Georgia early next year because it had been unable to resolve a deadlock with Russia over whether to treat the separatist enclaves of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as sovereign nations.The mission has overseen negotiations between clashing sides in South Ossetia since 1992, and it now has a staff of 200, including 28 trained military monitors. The region is also currently patrolled by 200 unarmed civilian monitors from the European Union, whose work will continue.

Russia is the only one of the organization’s 56 member states that has formally recognized the enclaves, but the organization works by consensus. At a meeting on Monday at O.S.C.E. headquarters in Vienna, Russia’s envoy to the organization refused to agree to extend the Georgia mission, which expires Dec. 31, unless the 55 other members agreed that South Ossetia and Abkhazia were independent countries.

In an interview, the Russian ambassador to the organization, Anvar Azimov, called his counterparts “inflexible and unconstructive” for refusing to join Russia in recognizing the enclaves.

“In my opinion, my colleagues do not want to recognize an evident fact,” he said. “Sooner or later, they will understand that this is the reality. The train has gone, and the process is irreversible.”

The Times elaborates:

The move was met with a furious reaction from diplomats. The State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack, said the United States “deplores Russia’s decision to effectively veto a measure supported by all the 55 other O.S.C.E. participating states.”

Ambassador Julie Finley, the United States’ envoy to the group, said the Russian stance could undermine stability throughout the Caucasus, a region scattered with dangerous ethnic conflicts.

“I’m fascinated by the fact that a so-called power chooses to be the only oarsman in the boat that doesn’t put an oar in the water,” she said. “If you’re big, you’re big, and you demonstrate your bigness by being constructive.

“I don’t think you would find this behavior today out of the leadership of China,” she said. “What are these people thinking?”

Isn’t there a little bit of the pot speaking to the kettle?

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Welcome! Who am I?

Anthony Clark Arend is Professor of Government and Foreign Service at Georgetown University and the Director of the Master of Science in Foreign Service in the Walsh School of Foreign Service.

Commentary and analysis at the intersection of international law and politics.