Signing a non-use of force treaty is required before other aspects of a German-proposed Abkhaz peace plan, including IDP return, can be considered, Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on July 17.
“We think that signing a treaty on the non-use of force without any preconditions is an absolutely unavoidable first step,” Lavrov told journalists after meeting his Serbian counterpart, Vuk Jeremic, in Moscow.
“Subsequently, it will be possible to discuss other issues, including refugees, economic rehabilitation, social aspects of this problem – as envisaged in Germany’s three-stage plan,” he added.
He said that he planned to discuss the issue with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who is due to arrive in Moscow late on July 18, after visiting Tbilisi and Sokhumi.
Lavrov said that linking a treaty on the non-use of force and the return of displaced persons was a wrong approach.
“Our western partners try to link this demand with signing of a document on the return of refugees, which is absolutely unreal at this stage,” he said. “The return of refugees requires a calm situation and confidence building, and only afterwards will it be possible to discuss this issue.”
He also said that there was a possibility of passing a UN Security Council statement, but not a resolution, calling for agreement on the non-use of force; but, he said, it was “blocked by our western partners.”
Lavrov’s remarks constitute the first public reaction by the Russian side to the German-proposed three-stage Abkhaz peace plan. The proposal, reportedly, envisages in the first stage a year of trust-building measures, including the signing of a treaty on the non-use of force and the beginning of the return of internally displaced persons.
Officials in Tbilisi are opposed to a treaty on the non-use of force without firm guarantees and a detailed timeframe and terms for IDP and refugee return, initially to Gali and Ochamchire districts of Abkhazia. Tbilisi also refuses to sign such a treaty on the grounds that Russian peacekeeping forces currently stationed in the Abkhaz conflict zone can not act as guarantors of any agreement.