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Georgia completes peacekeeper rotation in S. Ossetia

RIA Novosti

01/09/2007 17:42 TBILISI, September 1 (RIA Novosti) - Georgia has completed the rotation of its contingent as part of a joint peacekeeping force in South Ossetia.

The rotation was observed by representatives of an OSCE mission and joint peacekeeping force command.

Mamuka Kurashvili, the commander of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion in the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict area, said it was a scheduled rotation. The previous one was conducted in May.

"The rotation should help restore order in the conflict zone and facilitate the peace process," he said.

Russia completed the rotation of its peacekeeping contingent in South Ossetia in early June.

A 1,500-strong peacekeeping force comprised of Russian, Georgian and Ossetian servicemen has been patrolling South Ossetia since the region broke away from Georgia's central government in the early 1990s.

Tensions over the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the rebellious province increased last month as Georgia demanded that troops arriving on rotation should have entry visas.

Russia's Foreign Ministry dismissed the demand, saying Georgia had no control over South Ossetia, and stressed the region's right to self-determination.

Officials in Tbilisi have repeatedly accused Russian peacekeepers of undermining the Caucasus nation's territorial integrity by supporting separatists in the breakaway territory. Earlier this year, Georgia's parliament passed a resolution calling for Russian troops to withdraw.

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