New UXO clearance project kicks off in Georgia
On 31 October at the Czech Republic Embassy in Tbilisi, the NATO Support Agency (NSPA) and Georgia launched the fourth NATO/PfP Trust Fund project for unexploded ordnance clearance.
In August 2008, two of the eight tunnels of the Military Ammunition Depot in Skra, near Gori, exploded, throwing out some 500 tons of unexploded munitions and other debris, sealing off the tunnel entrance and presenting a severe safety and proliferation threat.
"The project aims to clear the debris and access the tunnels to remove any remaining live munitions or the debris. This will make the area safe for the local population and usable for the local authority" said David Towndrow, the NATO Support Agency Project Officer.
The EUR 1.6 million Trust Fund project will be carried out under the leadership of the Czech Republic and Lithuania and will run for a period of up to two years. NATO Support Agency, as in previous initiatives, serves as the Executing Agent for the project. So far donations have been made by Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Denmark, Estonia, Germany, Ireland, Japan, Spain, Sweden, Turkey and the United States.
"Georgia suffered significant damage to its military and civilian infrastructure during the war in August 2008. Post-war rehabilitation is ongoing, but much still remains to be done. Removal of mines and unexploded munitions in areas affected by the conflict is a priority", Ambassador Kęstutis Jankauskas, Permanent Representative of Lithuania to NATO, said. "The Georgia IV Trust Fund project co-led by Czech Republic and Lithuania will continue to build on previous successful experience by focusing on Skra site near Gori, where explosive ordinances disposal is urgently needed".
The project builds on the achievements made through the NATO/PfP Trust Fund project III, which was conducted in 2010-2012 and helped provide a demining and clearance capability to the Georgian Military Engineers, as well as the provision of medical rehabilitation equipment to Gori Military Hospital.
"Cooperation between Georgia and NATO Support Agency (NSPA) proved to be very effective and fruitful", Davit Nardaia, Director of the International Relations and Euro-Atlantic Integration Department of the Ministry of Defence of Georgia said. "Thanks to these projects, Georgian Armed Forces have the national capacity of a well-trained and equipped EOD company capable to address Explosive Remnants of War threats, as well as provide physical rehabilitation at the Military Hospital in Gori".
The Partnership Trust Fund mechanism allows individual Allies and partner countries to provide financial support to key projects on a voluntary basis.
"This Trust Fund project is an excellent complement to the other defence capacity building and security related activities that take place within the framework of NATO-Georgia relations", Ambassador Jiří Šedivý, Permanent Representative of the Czech Republic stressed. "We consider our project leadership as a strong demonstration - and an important element - of the Czech Republic's support to Georgia's Euro-Atlantic aspirations."