Russia needs to allow international monitors into South Ossetia, a separatist region of Georgia, in order to assess reports of human rights abuses. The monitors have been unable to return to the Russian-backed region since a war in August between Russia and Georgia.
The respected, independent organization Human Rights Watch says many ethnic Georgians displaced from South Ossetia feel unable to return to their homes to stay because they fear attacks by separatist Ossetian militias and others seeking to exploit the lack of law enforcement in the area.
U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Daniel Fried recently attended a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, or OSCE. Speaking to the press, he said, "There is, unfortunately, a silence and darkness with respect to the international monitors that has descended on South Ossetia. The solution," he said, "is hardly to keep monitors out of South Ossetia. ... Russia has an obligation, since it controls this territory, to let in international observers."
The underlying problem is that Russia has not fully complied with the requirements of the August 12th ceasefire agreement. Rather than withdrawing its troops, Russia occupied, and in some cases reinforced its positions in certain previously Georgian-administered areas. A case in point is the region of Akhalgori. This area had been under undisputed Georgian government control before the August war. On August 17th, 5 days after the ceasefire, Russian troops and South Ossetian separatists seized the region.
The purpose of getting international observers on the ground in South Ossetia, said Assistant Secretary Fried, is to "restore confidence and stability. We don't need more violence. We don't need a cycle of retaliations, tension, threats. That can end in a new catastrophe," he said.
Mr. Fried also called for the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia, which is larger than the OSCE, to be allowed to operate freely. Despite these disagreements, said Assistant Secretary Fried, the U.S. "want(s) to work with Russia in a constructive and practical spirit to increase security. And that can happen really only if there are more monitors from both OSCE and the EU allowed in under rules and conditions that everyone understands."