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Aborted S.Ossetia Talks Show Need for Change, Tbilisi Says

Aborted talks in Tbilisi have underlined Tskhinvali’s unwillingness to move forward in conflict resolution and Moscow’s failure to act as an effective mediator, Davit Bakradze, the Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues, said on August 6.

A meeting of the quadripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC), involving negotiators from the Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian and Russia’s North Ossetian sides, was scheduled for August 9-10 in Tbilisi. The South Ossetian side, however, refused to participate, citing security concerns. Tskhinvali wanted the Russian embassy as the venue, while the Georgian side proposed the OSCE mission’s headquarters in Tbilisi.

Tskhinvali’s refusal to participate, regardless of its reasoning, has unwittingly given Tbilisi the diplomatic upper-hand in a row with Russia over the negotiating format.

While Moscow wants to maintain the present negotiating format, Tbilisi has been pushing for its replacement for some time. Although ordinarily plenary sessions are held for several times a year, since last October there has been only one. The JCC did convene in Istanbul in March, but it was an informal, information session. Tbilisi has consistently found reason not to attend, what it considers to be a Russian dominated body. 

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on August 6, Davit Bakradze, the Georgian state minister, said the JCC would fail to bring a major breakthrough in the conflict resolution process “without fundamental changes in the format.”

As an alternative, he reiterated Tbilisi’s willingness to see both Moscow and Tskhinvali participate in the Georgian state commission which was set up recently to develop South Ossetia’s status. Moscow has so far ignored the commission, while Tskhinvali has denounced it as “absurd” and “illegal.”

“We think this [commission] is a much more effective format than the Joint Control Commission,” Bakradze said. “The Georgian side has always been pushing for upgrading and changing the JCC format and I think that the cancellation of talks [in Tbilisi] has once again confirmed our position.”

Tskhinvali’s refusal to participate in talks, he said, also demonstrated that “it is impossible to strike a long-term deal” with the authorities in the breakaway region.

The minister also had some harsh words for Moscow. The failure to hold talks in Tbilisi, he said “has once again brought into question the effectiveness of the Russian Federation as a mediator.” 

“Unfortunately, we have to state that the Russian Federation has failed to act as mediator and has failed to secure the effectiveness of the negotiating mechanisms,” he added.

Meanwhile, the Russian chief negotiator, Yuri Popov, is expected to arrive in Tbilisi late on August 6. He is due to hold separate talks with Bakradze in Tbilisi and with the chief South Ossetian negotiator, Boris Chochiev, in Tskhinvali.

If held, it would have been Davit Bakradze’s first talks with the South Ossetian negotiators. Bakradze was appointed as the state minister last month and held only telephone conversations with Boris Chochiev since than.

In an interview with the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, published on August 6, Chochiev said he was cautious about Bakradze.

“We have information that Bakradze is among those behind the so called Sanakoev project,” Chochiev said referring to Dimitri Sanakoev, head of the Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian provisional administration.

There are all reasons to think, he said, that Bakradze would reinvigorate efforts for Sanakoev’s promotion.


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