South Osetia to Call for More Russian Forces in Zone of Georgian-Osetian Conflict - 25 March, 2003

The leadership of South Osetia intends to ask Russia to increase its peacekeeping force in the Georgian-Osetian conflict zone and is prepared to provide space for Russian military bases withdrawn from Georgia. This was announced by President of the South Osetian Republic Eduard Kokoita at a press conference yesterday. He said that Russian presence in the Caucasus was 'an important factor for the stability of the region' and added that the South Osetian leadership is currently preparing the necessary paperwork in order to make an application for the republic to become a part of the Russian Federation.

Mr Kokoita emphasised that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze is counting on the US to solve his problems 'as he doesn't believe that the international organisations will help him to bring South Osetia and Abkhazia back under Georgian jurisdiction.' The South Osetian president pointed out that the Georgian parliament had recently endorsed an agreement for military cooperation with the US, which would give US unlimited military rights on all Georgian territory. 'By granting foreign military unlimited access and entry to the country and allowing them the freedom to transport their weapons and technical equipment and making them exempt from criminal liability for any crimes they may commit, Georgia has basically ceased to be a sovereign state,' said Mr Kokoita.