97th IPRM Held in Ergneti

On September 24, the 97th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) Meeting was held in village Ergneti, near the occupation line with Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia.

The EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM), which co-facilitates IPRMs, reported that the “participants stressed the value of the IPRM format, emphasized the importance of direct dialogue, and engaged in constructive discussions on the most pressing issues influencing stability and security on the ground.”

The co-facilitators – Marek Szczygieł, Head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) and Ambassador Rudolf Michalka, Special Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office for the South Caucasus – emphasized that “timely information exchange through all available platforms for preventing incidents and reducing tensions along ABL remains crucial.”

The participants of the meeting discussed several issues, including ‘borderisation’ processes along the Administrative Boundary Line, the security situation in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area, freedom of movement and other vital concerns especially aggravated amid COVID-19 pandemic. “Significant attention was devoted to the recent detention cases,” EUMM added.

In his press remarks, Irakli Antadze of the State Security Service of Georgia (SSG), stated that detention of Georgian citizens was brought into special focus, including the case of Khvicha Mghebrishvili, arbitrarily detained by Kremlin-backed authorities on July 3 for violating “state border.” Antadze said Mgebrishvili, whom Tskhinvali accused of infiltrating into the region “to collect the colonies of bats,” should be released tomorrow.

According to Antadze, the detention of Zaza Gakheladze, jailed in Tskhinvali custody since July, were also addressed. SSG official said Tskhinvali representatives informed the Georgian authorities that the health situation of Gakheladze remains “normal.”

The Georgian authorities also put the case of Tamar Mearakishvili, an ethnic Georgian journalist in occupied Akhalgori persecuted by the Tskhinvali regime, on the agenda and “demanded to immediately quit oppression of the civil activist and illegal restrictions imposed to her.”

SSG representative also reported that a Russian helicopter flew over Ergneti while the talks were underway. “The participants of the meeting evidently witnessed this violation. This is an extremely destructive action seriously undermining security situation in the area,” Antadze underscored.

On his part, Igor Kochiev, Moscow-backed Tskhinvali representative spoke of “the violations of S. Ossetian state border by Georgia, which is especially relevant amid COVID-19 pandemic” and demanded the withdrawal of Georgian policemen from Chorchana checkpoint.

This is the second IPRM in Ergneti following an 11-months-long stall. The talks, disrupted by Tskhinvali amid Chorchana-Tsnelisi checkpoint escalation in August 2019, resumed in July 2020. The next Ergneti IPRM is scheduled for November 20, 2020.

The IPRMs format was established under the Geneva International Discussions to address the security concerns and developments on the ground on a regular basis, and involves officials from Tbilisi on the one hand and representatives of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi authorities on the other in two, separate meetings, as well as representatives of the Russian border troops.

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