OSCE to Close Georgian Mission, Cites Russian Opposition

Europe's largest security organization says it will begin closing its observer mission in Georgia when its current mandate expires at the end of the month after Russia blocked its extension.

Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb, whose country holds the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, Monday said he "deeply" regretted the decision.  He said the organization had sought a three-month extension. But Russia blocked it, insisting that the mission be split up to reflect Russian recognition of Georgia's breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries.  All OSCE decisions require consensus.

Stubb added that he hopes negotiations on future OSCE work in Georgia will continue next year.

The OSCE has been working to spur Georgian economic development as it tries to resolve tensions between the country's government and the two breakaway regions.  Those tensions spilled over into armed conflict in August, when Russian forces swept into Georgia.  

Russia insists its troops went in as a response to the Georgian government's attempt to recapture the breakaway pro-Russian region of South Ossetia by force.

Georgia says it was responding to a Russian invasion.

The organization currently has an estimated 200 people in Georgia, including 28 unarmed observers monitoring a Russian-Georgian cease-fire in place since August.

 Some information for this report was provided by AFP and AP.

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