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The 45th round of the Geneva International Discussions, October 10, 2018. Photo: UN Information Service in Geneva

45th Round of Geneva International Discussions

The 45th 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 October 9-10. This marked the tenth anniversary of the forum.

The GID are co-chaired by representatives of OSCE, EU and UN, and involve participants 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 October 9-10 negotiations, saying the main discussion points were the resumption of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism meetings (IPRMs) and the cases of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli.

The MFA said in its statement that the Georgian side underscored the “important role” of IPRMs, and condemned the “destructive steps” of Russia and its occupation regimes against the discussions format. It also said GID co-chairs and participants from Georgia and the United States stressed the necessity of resuming the IPRM meetings.

Tbilisi representatives expressed their concern regarding “the continuation of factual annexation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions by the Russian Federation,” and the “aggravated” human rights and security situation inside the regions and in adjacent territories, including the detentions and restrictions on free movement of local residents.

“Georgian representatives highlighted the responsibility of Russia, as the power exercising effective control in the occupied territories, over the gross human rights violations,” it said.

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 restriction of Georgian-language schooling for children in Gali and Akhalgori districts. The MFA said this represents “a policy of deliberate Russification.”

According to the MFA, “the co-chairs and participants from Georgia and the United States underscored the necessity of holding in-depth discussions regarding return of the internally displaced persons and refugees,” but “participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali demonstrated their traditionally destructive approach, tried to politicize the humanitarian matters once again and left the negotiations room during the discussion on the issue.”

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

Positions taken: Russia, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi

The October 10 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said “the majority” of GID participants agreed that the situation “on the borderlines” are stable. “At the same time, unanimous support was expressed on the necessity of taking joint steps for unblocking the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs),” the Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry added that GID participants also exchanged views on the non-use of force issue. “Fundamental disagreements of the sides on how to interpret the 2008 agreements, as well as on ways for ensuring long-term security in the South Caucasus, have impeded [the process] of reaching consensus on the issue,” reads the statement.

The MID added that Russian, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi representatives again raised their concern over “the increasing presence” of NATO in the region, as well as over “the work of the Richard Lugar biological lab in Georgia.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry also reported that the Abkhaz and the South Ossetian representatives briefed the GID participants on the “socio-economic successes of their states,” and the role of the Russian support in it, which “completely breaks down [Tbilisi’s] propaganda message box on the occupied territories and the suffering of local populations.”

The Russian statement also said that its representative called on the GID co-chairs to “allow access” of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi “to international forums, particularly the United Nations, where topics relevant to the Geneva talks are discussed.”

Tskhinvali and Sokhumi echoed the MID’s messages, and urged the co-chairs to allow their presence at international discussions platforms. The Abkhaz stressed they would like to have “equal access” to international forums, while their South Ossetian counterparts said “blockage” of their participation is “not constructive.”

Tskhinvali and Sokhumi authorities also underlined that they consider the IPRM meetings effective and important, but added that they will be willing to return to the discussions forum, only if issues that they deem unacceptable are removed from the agenda.

Positions taken: the United States

The United States Mission to Geneva said in its press statement that ten years from the first GID meeting, the U.S. “encouraged participants to seek tangible ways forward to improve the security and humanitarian situation on the ground.”

The U.S. GID delegation said American representatives noted their concern over the “current difficulties” regarding the IPRM, and urged the participants to resume the meetings “as soon as possible.”

The delegation also reiterated the United States’ strong support for greater cooperation “from the de facto Abkhaz and South Ossetian authorities in conducting full and transparent investigations into the deaths of Georgian citizens Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria.”

The press statement also said that the U.S. regrets the participants “were unable to discuss internally displaced persons because of the Russian-led walk-out from Working Group II.”

The U.S. delegation added that it also expressed concern over Moscow’s “failure to implement fully the terms of the 2008 ceasefire agreement,” and reiterated its support to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.

GID co-chair assessments

The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, acknowledging on its tenth anniversary the participants’ “continued commitment to this unique mechanism.” They stressed the format has “contributed to improved stability and accountability on the ground,” with establishment of IPRMs being its “key achievement.”

The co-chairs then expressed regret over “the current difficulties surrounding the IPRMs,” and urged the participants “to resume the regular meetings of the IPRMs without further delay.”

The press communiqué also touched upon the GID achievements over the last ten years, saying “core issues on the GID agenda remain to be resolved.” “While the principle of the non-use of force is largely being adhered to, efforts to agree on a joint statement on the non-use of force and to work towards steps implementing this commitment have so far been inconclusive. Further work is required to provide sustainable security,” it said.

The GID facilitators spoke on other outstanding issues as well, saying challenges remain “regarding the needs and rights of conflict-affected communities.” “Unfortunately, substantial discussions on IDPs and refugees have not been possible in recent years, due to repeated walkouts by some participants,” the press communiqué also reads.

The co-chairs concluded by calling on the participants to “adopt a forward-looking and more constructive approach that will allow this unique format to fulfil its mandate.” “The primary responsibility for making effective use of this format lies with the participants,” they noted.

The next round of the GID is scheduled for December 11-12.

Write-up of the previous round of the Geneva International Discussions can be found here.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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