ATHENS, 6 August 2009 - The OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Greek Foreign Minister Dora Bakoyannis, said today she was concerned about tensions in the areas affected by the August 2008 conflict in Georgia and called on all sides to refrain from actions and statements that could destabilize the situation further."Almost a year after the beginning of the conflict, we are facing a highly sensitive time," she said. "Wounds are still raw, and the region remains fragile and volatile. Lives were lost during the conflict and after, and people forced to flee their homes lack the support they need to be able return to live in dignity."Bakoyannis emphasized that the OSCE remained involved in Georgia and hoped to ensure a strong presence for the Organization in the country to help strengthen security in the region."The OSCE is committed to helping to create lasting peace and security for the benefit of all peoples," she said.Bakoyannis said she regretted that the OSCE Mission to Georgia had to close earlier this year after working to improve the region's stability since 1992. The Mission's mandate expired at the end of 2008, and the Greek Chairmanship suspended negotiations to seek consensus around a new mandate in May, following months of intensive talks. At the end of June, the mandate for an OSCE deployment of unarmed military monitoring officers to Georgia expired and the Mission was closed."We remain focused on finding a solution that would enable the OSCE to have a strong presence in Georgia, and we hope that despite the difficulties so far, we will be able to find consensus on a format for such work. The Chairmanship's status-neutral proposal for the mandate remains on the table," she said. "Such a presence is needed now more than ever. I have said it often, and I will say it again: We need more OSCE in the region, not less."Bakoyannis said the OSCE was still working to improve security in the region - the Organization is co-chairing the Geneva Discussions along with the United Nations and the European Union.
"The Geneva Discussions are the only forum where all parties meet and discuss security and stability as well as humanitarian concerns," she said."Thanks to these discussions, there has been progress on important humanitarian matters, such as delivery of gas. The OSCE is also promoting joint efforts to improve the water supply with a view to ensuring access to potable and irrigation water by all populations. In addition, the OSCE is helping to facilitate meetings of a joint incident prevention and response mechanism, which enables regular contact between the sides for sharing information and discussing security concerns. We are committed to continuing these efforts and achieving results," she said.