South Ossetia had a special status under Soviet rule as the South Ossetian Autonomous Oblast within the Georgian SSR. Before 1989 there had been little inter-ethnic strife, but nationalism rose as the Soviet Union started to break-up. South Ossetian nationalists demanded the status of autonomous republic, and declared the South Ossetian Democratic Republic in 1990, fully sovereign within the USSR. The nationalist Georgian government rejected this and violent conflict broke out in 1991, resulting in over 100,000 displaced people and over 1000 dead.
In 1992, Georgia accepted a ceasefire – and the presence of OSCE monitors. Despite successive Georgian governments maintaining pressure on the Tskhinvali regime to reintegrate with Georgia and Russia’s determination to support the de facto South Ossetian government, the situation remained more or less stable, apart from an outbreak of fighting in summer 2004, until the more serious events of August 2008.
Since the war, the population of South Ossetia has been reduced to an estimated 35,000. Many ethnic Ossetians fled to North Ossetia (part of the Russian Federation), and around 14,000 ethnic Georgians left for other parts of Georgia. Some Ossetians have since returned to their homes, but the ethnic Georgians have not.
On 13 May 2009, Greece (chairing the OSCE in 2009) announced a suspension of the renewal of the mandate for the OSCE Mission in Georgia after months of blocking by Russia. The mission was formally wound-up on 30 June.
A ‘parliamentary election’ took place in South Ossetia in May 2009. Parties loyal to the incumbent ‘president’ Eduard Kokoity gained the highest number of votes. Two opposition parties were not allowed to participate because of concerns that they were not loyal to Kokoity. The elections were illegal under Georgian law and the EU, US and NATO all issued statements to the same effect and rejecting the results.
February and April 2010 agreements between Moscow and the de facto Abkhaz and de facto South Ossetian authorities, respectively, establishing Russian military bases in the separatist regions for 49 years, are inconsistent with the terms of the August 12 cease-fire agreement negotiated by French President Sarkozy and signed by Georgian President Saakashvili and Russian President Medvedev. The cease-fire agreement calls for the parties to: refrain from resorting to the use of force, ensure a definitive halt to hostilities, provide free humanitarian access to the separatist regions, withdraw forces to their pre-conflict positions, and open international discussions on security and stability in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
the EU, UN, and OSCE co-host ongoing Geneva-based talks on security and stability arrangements in the Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions. The governments of Georgia, Russia, and the United States send representatives to participate in the talks, and de facto authorities from Abkhazia and South Ossetia also participate, as do representatives of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian governments-in-exile. The talks have established Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) designed to foster stability on the ground, including on the administrative boundary lines and in the conflict areas. Other items on the agenda include security, unfettered access to Abkhazia and South Ossetia for international monitors and human rights groups, and the return of internally displaced persons and refugees.
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