S.Ossetia threatens Georgia with irrigation cut-off

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South Ossetia, one of Georgia's breakaway provinces, warned on Thursday that it could block irrigation canals leading to central Georgia if Tbilisi refuses to re-start water supplies to the region's capital.
MOSCOW, July 31 (RIA Novosti) - South Ossetia, one of Georgia's breakaway provinces, warned on Thursday that it could block irrigation canals leading to central Georgia if Tbilisi refuses to re-start water supplies to the region's capital.

Local authorities have given Georgia until 12:00 GMT to meet their demand.

Main water supplies have been completely cut off from the South Ossetian capital, Tskhinvali, for a month. An inspection by collective peacekeeping forces and an OSCE representative on July 26 found that water was being tapped in Georgian villages. Although the Georgian side pledged to remove all illegal pipe tapping devices by July 28, Tskhinvali said the water shortage had only worsened.

South Ossetia's co-chairman of the Joint Control Commission for the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict passed the ultimatum to Georgia via the head of the Tskhinvali office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, who he met on Wednesday.

"Boris Chochiyev asked Gzhegozha Mikhalski to pass an ultimatum to the Georgian side saying that unless experts from both sides inspect the Edisi-Tskhinvali water pipeline, passing through Georgian villages to the north of Tskhinvali, on the morning of July 31 to remove multiple illegal tapping devices, and unless water supply to Tskhinvali is resumed by 16:00 (local time), the South Ossetian government will not resist youth and public organizations of the republic who are demanding that all irrigation canals from Tskhinvali to Georgian villages be blocked," South Ossetia's information and press committee said.

South Ossetia has been seeking international recognition since an armed conflict with Tbilisi that left hundreds dead in 1991-1992. Georgian authorities want to bring the secessionist republic back under their control, and have accused Russia, which has peacekeepers in the area, along with Georgian and South Ossetian troops, of encouraging separatist elements.

The Joint Control Commission, comprising Georgia, South Ossetia, Russia, and its North Caucasus Republic of North Ossetia, was formed to find a solution to the Georgian-South Ossetian conflict.

In April, then-Russian President Vladimir Putin called for closer links with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, another Georgian breakaway republic, provoking anger in Tbilisi, which accused Moscow of trying to annex the regions.

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