The 46th round of the Geneva International Discussions (GID) – the multilateral forum to address security and humanitarian consequences of the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008 – was held on December 11-12.
- Participants from Tskhinvali agree to resume IPRM in Ergneti. No progress on Gali IPRM;
- Russian participants criticize NATO engagement in Georgia, repeat Lugar Lab accusations;
- Moscow, Tskhinvali and Sukhumi representatives walk out from the session on IDPs.
Positions taken: Georgia
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) issued a statement regarding the December 11-12 negotiations, saying Georgia’s main points were concerning the necessity to find a solution to humanitarian problems of the conflict-affected population.
The MFA said in its statement, that the Georgian participants spoke of the “grave consequences” of Russian Federation’s “illegal occupation and factual annexation” of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia on local population, as well as the process of ongoing militarization, including frequent military drills and the cases of violation of Georgia’s airspace.
Tbilisi also denounced illegal marking of the occupation line with artificial barriers close to the Atotsi village in the Kareli municipality, southwest of Tskhinvali. Special focus was made on the need to investigate deaths of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli, and the need for “restoring justice” in these cases.
According to MFA, Russia’s responsibility, “as the power exercising effective control in the occupied territories,” was emphasized in cases of human rights violations, which among others include: restriction of free movement, restrictions imposed on schooling in Georgian language, violation of property and other fundamental rights, as well as ethnic discrimination in Georgian-populated Gali and Akhalgori districts.
“It was underscored that the existing discriminatory restrictions and, consequent grave socio-economic situation lays ground for yet another wave of ethnic cleansing,” the statement reads.
The MFA added that it was not possible to discuss one of the main issues concerning the return of refugees and internally displaced persons from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, due to “destructive approach” of participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, who left the negotiations room “to avoid discussion on the issue.”
According to the MFA, “the co-chairs and co-moderators from EU, UN and OSCE, as well as representatives of United States were unanimous on the necessity of holding discussions on improving security, humanitarian and human rights situation on the ground.”
Lasha Darsalia, newly appointed Deputy Foreign Minister has led the Georgian team for the first time at the GID, although he has previously participated in the process as the Deputy State Minster for Reconciliation and Civic Equality.
Positions taken: Russia, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi
The December 12 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said, “all” of GID participants “except of Georgia” assessed the situation “in the border areas” as “stable overall.” According to the Ministry, the statistics confirms there were no serious problems with freedom of movement along the occupation line, and that the number of cases “does not exceed the average.”
The MID added that the participants welcomed the decision of Tskhinvali to resume participation in Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs). “The Russian side called for the co-chairs to contribute to forming balanced and depoliticized agenda of these meetings,” MID said, adding that “the future of another IPRM, in Gal, depends on this to great extent as well.”
The Russian statement also said that discussions concerning the possibility of an agreement on non-use of force were also “stark,” and the opinions have diverged.
“Russian, Abkhaz and South Ossetian delegations once again emphasized that military actions of the United States and NATO on Georgia’s territory pose the main challenge to the regional security, including the plans of Washington and Tbilisi to modernize a military airport in Vaziani, as well as to hold more large-scale multi-national exercises in 2019,” MID said, urging Georgia to “stop channeling someone else’s interests, and instead try to improve relations with its neighbors.”
MID also denounced the recent statements of the NATO Secretary General and U.S. Secretary of State in support of Georgia’s NATO membership, saying that “precisely such irresponsible promises in August 2008 have pushed Tbilisi into a criminal military adventure.”
They once again expressed mistrust for the Richard Lugar Center for Public Health Research, a Tbilisi-based biological research facility that has been a target of Russia’s recent bio-warfare allegations.
Tskhinvali and Sokhumi echoed the Russian Foreign Ministry’s messages, and expressed their concerns on Georgia’s cooperation with NATO and U.S. The Abkhaz participants also stressed, that their position on restoring IPRM in Gali “remains unchanged.”
Positions taken: the United States
The United States Mission to Geneva said in its press statement that U.S. “welcomed efforts by the GID Co-Chairs and participants to re-convene IPRMs in Gali and Ergneti as soon as possible,” and “again called 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 delegation welcomed the Co-Chairs’ efforts “to generate a consensus on fundamental humanitarian principles in Working Group II,” and regretted that “de facto authorities refused to engage in a discussion on these principles, instead walking out of the discussions.”
“Such walkouts deprive participants of the chance to discuss critical humanitarian issues that affect thousands of civilians,” the U.S. GID delegation said.
According to the press statement, U.S. “fully supports Georgia’s sovereignty, independence, and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”
“The U.S. delegation reiterated its concern over the failure to implement fully the terms of the 2008 ceasefire agreement, especially with regard to the withdrawal of Russian forces to pre-2008 positions and the establishment of international security mechanisms,” it said.
GID co-chair assessments
The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, saying the discussions “took place yesterday in a business-like and respectful atmosphere.”
They said, co-chairs and participants “assessed the overall security situation on the ground as relatively calm and stable,” and highlighted the importance of IPRMs “over the past years in addressing security-related issues.” “In this context, the Co-Chairs urged participants to resume the regular meetings of IPRMs, in Ergneti and Gali, without delay,” the statement reads.
“Threat perceptions were addressed in detail from different angles and increased transparency was encouraged by the Co-Chairs,” it also says, noting that “the participants reaffirmed their commitment to the principle of non-use of force, agreed to continue discussions on this issue in a comprehensive manner and new proposals were welcomed in this regard.”
Reviewing the overall humanitarian situation on the ground, the participants discussed in particular issues relating to missing persons, freedom of movement, healthcare, documentation, education, livelihoods and environmental concerns. “Unfortunately, some participants walked out before the issue of IDPs/refugees could be addressed,” the co-chairs said, calling for participants “to engage constructively on all agenda items.”
An information session on the topic of “Women, Peace and Security” also took place on the eve of this round, which was welcomed by the participants.
The next round of the GID is scheduled for April 2-3, 2019.