Georgia: Water crisis remains source for S.Ossetia tensions

Authorities in breakaway South Ossetia have warned they will cut water supply to the Georgian villages if water shortage problem in the breakaway region's capital, Tskhinvali, is not solved on Sunday by 3 pm local time.

"If today by 3 pm our workers in cooperation with the Georgian side - and we are not against of their involvement - are not able to launched repair of damaged water pipeline, we will have to cut [water supply] to the villages of the Gori district," Boris Chochiev, chief South Ossetian negotiator, said at a news conference in Tskhinvali on June 3.

The South Ossetian side claims that Tbilisi is preventing Ossetian workers from repairing the damaged pipeline in the Georgian-controlled villages in the north of Tskhinvali.

As a result of this damage, which was caused initially by holes punched into the old pipeline for crop irrigation, and then exacerbated by storm-damage which caused it to break, Tskhinvali is without potable water for nine days already.

Tskhinvali and Moscow have already accused Tbilisi of using water crisis for its political goals by trying to involve its loyal South Ossetian provisional administration, led by Dimitri Sanakoev, in resolution of the problem. Tskhinvali and Moscow describe Sanakoev's administration as Tbilisi's "puppet government" and refuse to cooperate with it.

"I telling you: Georgia is preparing for a war... I can not blame personally Merab Antadze [the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues], because he is not the one capable of solving the issue. Vano Merabishvili [the Georgian Interior Minister] is behind of it," Chochiev said at the news conference.

The Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues called on Tskhinvali on June 2 "to give up its confrontational stance" and solve problems though a dialogue "with all the forces interested in peaceful resolution of the conflict" - an apparent reference to Sanakoev's administration.

Dimitri Sanakoev told reporters in his newly opened office in Tbilisi on June 3, that Tskhinvali-based authorities deliberately triggered the water crisis.

"Tskhinvali wants to destabilize situation in the region through ultimatums and intimidation... We will not react on these threats and ultimatums. We will continue our cautious policy and our work... The Georgian side has nothing to do with this [water] problem. Population should understand that [South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard] Kokoity's regime itself is using water for escalation of tensions," Dimitri Sanakoev.

OSCE Mission to Georgia, which acts as facilitator between the parties, called to solve the current water crisis "together as quickly as possible."

"Given the humanitarian nature of this crisis I urge all Sides to concentrate on the speedy resolution of this crisis in order that tension does not rise further," Ambassador Roy Reeve, Head of the OSCE Mission, said on June 2.


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