EU to launch Georgia-Russia conflict probe

The European Union is to launch an inquiry into the causes of the Russia-Georgia conflict, papers seen on Friday show, amid growing recriminations against Tbilisi over its role in fanning the flames.

The independent international inquiry mission, an EU initiative, will be headed by Heidi Tagliavini, a Swiss former United Nations special representative to Georgia, according to an official EU document seen by Agence France-Presse.

Her nomination is set to be approved by EU ambassadors next week before being formally agreed at an EU foreign ministers meeting on December 1, a European diplomat said on Friday.

Tagliavini will then choose her team of “recognised” experts, including historians, military, jurists and rights experts, according to the text.

The mission’s official objective will be “to look into the origins and the unfolding of the Georgia conflict”.

The mini-war, which started and finished in August, began in and around the Georgian breakaway regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which Russia now controls and recognises as independent states.

The EU mission’s “geographical and time limits will be sufficiently broad to determine the possible causes”, the experts’ text said.

The mission will have eight months to complete its work, with conclusions to be presented on July 31 2009. An earlier version of the plan was for just a four-month operation.

The final report will be presented to both Georgia and Russia as well as the EU nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the United Nations.

The launch of the operation comes after several Western leaders, notably, French President Nicolas Sarkozy, publicly criticised the actions of the government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, while speaking of a disproportionate Russian “reaction”. — AFP

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