1 Oct 2008

EU monitors ceasfire from Georgian buffer zone

10:14 pm on 1 October 2008

European Union observers have entered the buffer zone around South Ossetia, as they began monitoring a ceasefire between Georgia and Russia.

Two hundred monitors are in the area to oversee the pull-back of Russian forces from South Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Russia has kept troops in the zones since ousting Georgian forces after war broke out in early August.

Moscow says it will complete its troops pullout by 10 October.

On Tuesday, EU foreign police Javier Solana said he was "optimistic that all the parties will comply" with a French-brokered peace plan between Moscow and Tbilisi.

A group of unarmed EU monitors in two light armoured vehicles entered the buffer zone around South Ossetia, 20km west of the Georgian town of Gori.

Observers from 22 EU nations are deployed in Georgia to monitor Russia's troop withdrawal. Many are French gendarmes, and there are also experts on human rights and legal issues.

The Russian pull-back was agreed in a ceasefire deal brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

But Russia plans to keep nearly 8,000 troops in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which it has recognised as independent states.

Western leaders have condemned both the buffer zones and Russia's recognition of the two regions.

The EU wants its observers to have access to the breakaway regions, but Russia has repeatedly refused to guarantee that.