UN fact-finding mission arrives in Tskhinval

A UN assessment mission has arrived in South Ossetia to get first-hand knowledge of the humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground. The delegation will spend two days in the Republic, starting in Tskhinval before moving on to other war-affected

They’ll work in two groups, allowing them to cover as wide an area as possible as they try to gain an understanding of the conflict's consequences.

The UN delegation has started the first part of its visit in Tskhinval. It will then go on to Gori and Tbilisi in Georgia before ending their trip in Moscow.

Their initial mission is to asses the humanitarian needs for the next six months, specifically in terms of food, sanitation, health and shelter. They are also there to asses how the UN can help people to rebuild their lives.

The UN said it had limited access to South Ossetia in the early days following the war, but it's better late than never. The mission is purely humanitarian and includes representatives from eight UN commissions.

Senior UN representative Jan Harofst said the organisation was looking at a long-term plan for the region.

“We hope that this information will be able to feed into what could be in the future a possible joint longer-term mission, which would look at needs for recovery and development,” he said.

South Ossetian deputy Prime Minister Boris Chochiev said the mission is an important step towards the world understanding the issues behind the conflict and its aftermath.

“It is very important to South Ossetia that representatives of international organisations receive information about the situation in the republic not from television or other mass media, but have a chance to study the situation on the spot,” Chochiyev said.

Any observations will be passed back to the UN so they can launch a flash appeal to their donors for further humanitarian aid.