EU extends Georgia ceasefire monitoring mission

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An EU mission in Georgia said Tuesday that its mandate to monitor the ceasefire that ended the 2008 Georgia-Russia war had been extended by a year to September 2011.

The European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) said in a statement that the EU Council had adopted a decision extending the mandate on Monday.

The mission, one of the EU's largest foreign security missions, has 225 civilian observers patrolling along the borders of Georgia's rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which were at the heart of the August 2008 conflict.

Georgian officials welcomed the extension, saying the mission was key to preventing further violence.

"It is an important factor for stability in the region," Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili told AFP. "The mission's main achievement is that a fresh military confrontation has been avoided."

Georgia has accused Russia of failing to abide by the ceasefire by not allowing EU monitors access to the rebel regions and Yakobashvili said he hoped monitors would eventually be granted access.

"We do hope that sooner or later the mission will be able to fully implement its mandate," he said.

The mission was created under an EU-brokered ceasefire agreement that ended the war, which saw Russian troops and tanks pour into Georgia to repel a Georgian military attempt to retake South Ossetia.

Russian forces later mostly withdrew to within South Ossetia and Abkhazia after Moscow recognised both regions as independent states.

© 2010 AFP

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