Seventeen detained Georgians released in Tskhinvali

13 other Georgians remain in the custody in South Ossetia., 14 May 2014 - 15:45, Tbilisi,Georgia

Seventeen Georgian citizens detained at the boundary line with de-facto South Ossetia have been released following a meeting with conflict resolution experts.

The seventeen released citizens were detained by Russian border guards this month for illegally crossing the border into South Ossetia, the de-facto government claimed.

At the time, all of the citizens were picking "jonjoli” (a variety of capers) in the forest near their villages in the Sachkhere and Khashuri districts.

Despite today’s mass release, several Georgian citizens are still being held captive in Tskhinvali, the capital of South Ossetia.

The Georgian Interior Ministry said negotiations were continuing to facilitate the release of the remaining Georgian citizens.

On May 2 the first group of "jonjoli” pickers were detained. Since then, 26 local villagers were detained in five separate incidences.

Yesterday, after the meeting with conflict resolution experts working within the framework of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani said the Georgian side demanded for actual steps to be taken to solve the problem of detention near the occupation line.

"We asked [the conflict resolution experts] for this issue to be discussed strictly in order to avoid these kinds of detentions,” Zalkaliani said, adding the detention violated locals’ rights for free movement.

The IPRM was created in February 2009 as a result of the Geneva Discussions that followed the 2008 conflict in Georgia. The meetings are an opportunity to identify and discuss potential risks, the follow-up of incidents and issues affecting the communities on a daily basis. The meetings are co-facilitated by the OSCE and the European Union Monitoring Mission in Georgia.