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44th Round of Geneva International Discussions

The 44th round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) – the multilateral mediation forum to address security and humanitarian consequences of the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008 – was held on June 20.

The GID are co-chaired by the representatives of the OSCE, EU and UN, and involve representatives from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as members of both the Georgian exiled administrations of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and the two regions’ Russian-backed authorities.

Positions taken: Georgia

The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding the June 20 negotiations, saying the main discussion points were the “torture and murder” of Archil Tatunashvili, and the necessity of fulfilling the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement by the Russian Federation.

The MFA stressed in its statement that the Georgian side handed over the interim results of the forensic examination of the body of Tatunashvili, and informed the participants that the Georgian prosecutors had filed charges in absentia against two South Ossetian security officers on accusations of illegal confinement and assistance in torture.

“The Georgian side laid full responsibility on the Russian Federation on the matter, as the country exercising effective control in the occupied regions,” the Ministry said, calling on Moscow to refrain from creating any obstacles to the investigation.

They also reiterated Tbilisi’s condemnation that Tatunashvili’s body was transferred without internal organs, and called on the Russian Federation to return the organs, “enabling to conduct complete forensic examination.” The Georgian side raised two other high-profile murders as well – of Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli – saying “deprivation of lives of ethnic Georgians has become an alarming tendency.”

According to the MFA, particular emphasis was drawn to the need for Russia to fulfil the 2008 ceasefire agreement, including through withdrawing its military forces from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region and establishing international security mechanisms in the two regions. Tbilisi representatives also underlined the need for Moscow to commit and fulfil the non-use of force obligation, but the Russian side responded with its “typical cynicism,” and “tried to present as if it had already fulfilled the ceasefire agreement.”

The Ministry also said “a detailed discussion” was held on security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied territories. Here, Tbilisi representatives expressed their concern regarding “the ongoing militarization” of the occupied regions, and “steps towards their factual annexation by the Russian Federation.”

Tbilisi representatives also highlighted the need of allowing the European Union Monitoring Mission to access the occupied territories. They also stressed that “recent provocative steps by Russian occupation forces against EUMM” were unacceptable, and that the Russian Federation was restricting the Mission “even further” in implementing its mandate

The MFA added that ethnic discrimination of Georgians residing in the two regions was stressed during the talks, including registration of the Gali Georgians “as foreigners” and violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms, restrictions on their property rights, and restriction of the Georgian-language education for children in Gali and Akhalgori districts.

According to the MFA, “the co-chairs and participants from Georgia and the United States underscored the necessity of holding discussions regarding safe and dignified return of the internally displaced persons and refugees. “Despite this, representatives of the Russian Federation and its occupation regimes politicized the humanitarian matters once again and left the negotiations room during the discussion of the displaced persons issue,” it added.

Tbilisi-based administration of Abkhazia also issued a statement about the latest round of the Geneva talks, highlighting ethnic discriminations of Georgians, among other issues.

Positions taken: Russia, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi

The June 20 statement of Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said that the participants exchanged views on increasing the effectiveness of the Geneva Discussions, with its diplomats highlighting that “the only way to ensure a more productive work in Geneva” is through Tbilisi agreeing to engage in a direct dialogue with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali and stopping its “confrontational propaganda on international forums.”

The Ministry added that the position was not shared by Georgian diplomats, who continued to pedal “the ridiculous thesis of alleged Russian occupation,” and attempted to politicize the deaths of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli.

The Russian statement also says that all participants, except Georgia, “agreed that the situation in borderlines are stable and predictable.”

The Russian side also highlighted that the “practical impact” of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings had decreased, with Tbilisi, supported by the EUMM, “trying to replace serious professional work on strengthening stability with aggressive political PR.” The MID then stressed “state borders” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were regularly violated, which Sokhumi and Tskhinvali representatives deemed “unacceptable” and called for reducing the frequency of meetings.

The Russian side also expressed that NATO’s “growing” presence in the region was unacceptable, and that it posed “serious threat” to regional security.

The Russian Foreign Ministry touched upon the non-use of force statement as well, saying it was “regrettable” that the participants failed to hold constructive discussion on the matter. “The Georgian side insisted on continuing the work on an unacceptable American version [of the document], which practically excludes the Abkhaz and South Ossetians from the document.”

Moscow also slammed Tbilisi for the recent UN General Assembly resolution on internally displaced persons from the two regions, saying it opted for “futile propaganda exercises in international forums.”

Tskhinvali and Sokhumi echoed the MID’s messages, and called on Tbilisi to engage in direct dialogue with them and highlighting the need for “increasing the effectiveness” of the Geneva International Discussions. In a joint statement, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi also attacked the UN General Assembly resolution on internally displaced persons and demanded “legally binding agreement on non-use of force, and in due course – peace treaty between Georgia from the one side and republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the other.”

GID Co-chair Assessments

The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, assessing the overall security situation on the ground “as relatively calm and stable,” but reiterating the “need to conduct a proper investigation into the tragic death of Archil Tatunashvili.”

The co-chairs encouraged the participants “to continue exchanging information on this and other cases, such as the killing of Giga Otkhozoria in May 2016, in the framework of the relevant Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms.”

The GID co-chairs also noted that they had to propose to “continue working further” on a draft joint statement on non-use of force, citing “divergent positions” expressed by the participants.

The press communiqué also said that “it was again not possible to complete discussion of all agenda items given long-standing divergent approaches to the issue of IDPs/refugees.”

The co-chairs “reiterated their call for a constructive and result-oriented approach by all participants on all agenda items,” and informed them about their “ongoing efforts aimed at making the Geneva format more effective and productive.”

The next round of the GID is scheduled for October 9-10.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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