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48th Round of Geneva International Discussions

The 48th 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 July 2-3.

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, in their personal capacities. Sessions are held in two working groups, with the first group discussing peace and security matters, and the second – humanitarian concerns.

Positions taken: Georgia

In a statement issued regarding the July 2-3 negotiations, the Georgian Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said the special focus was made on recent “restrictive measures” imposed by Russia on Georgia, as well as the “grave results” of closing of crossing-points connecting Abkhazia with the rest of the country.

According to the MFA, the Georgian participants underscored “utmost importance” to de-escalate the “current grave situation.”

The Georgian delegation “spoke extensively” of the security and humanitarian problems that the conflict-affected population is facing in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia, as well as in areas adjacent to the occupation line, “which is the result of Russia’s illegal occupation and its steps to de facto annexation” of the two regions.

The members of the delegation also raised the issue of Russia’s “illegal militarization of Georgia’s occupied territories,” and repeated military drills. They also called on the Russian Federation to fulfill the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement and “withdraw its occupation forces from the Georgian territory.”

Erection of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the occupation line, kidnapping of local population and arbitrary detentions, restrictions to freedom of movement and access to the plots of land that “support further escalation of tensions on the ground” were also discussed.

MFA said, special attention was also paid to ethnic discrimination of the locals of Gali and Akhalgori region, and Kodori gorge, and their “grave” humanitarian and socio-economic conditions. “Participants from Georgia again raised the necessity for the Georgians living in occupied territories to receive education in their native language,” the MFA said.

It also noted that the need to “restore justice” in the cases of the deaths of Archil TatunashviliGiga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli was also among the important issues of discussion. MFA said, participants from Tbilisi focused also on death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia, a 29-year-old Georgian citizen, who died under unclear circumstances in Abkhazia and demanded form the Russian Federation to “immediately share the case materials.”

Against the background of current challenges, the necessity of resumption of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) in Gali “without any preconditions” was also underscored.

The Georgian representatives raised the issue of creating international security mechanisms in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions to ensure “sustainable peace and security on the ground,” amid Russia’s “illegal military presence on Georgia’s occupied territories,” through which it “continues using its force against Georgia,” the MFA said in its statement.

The MFA added that due to “destructive and irresponsible approach” of participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, who left the room “to avoid discussion on one of the major humanitarian issues”, the return of refugees and internally displaced persons from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions as a result of ethnic cleansing could not be discussed.

 Positions taken: Russia, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi

The July 3 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said the recent protest rallies in Georgia have affected the atmosphere of yesterday’s meeting, and reiterated that the Russian reaction to them was “adequate” to the threat they posed.

The MID also said that the deepening of NATO-Georgia relations amid “unfriendly rhetoric” from Tbilisi, is perceived by Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali as “a real threat to regional stability.”

“The situation in the border areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Georgia was assessed by all of the participants of the meeting apart of Georgia, as overall stable and under control,” MID stated.

Sokhumi and Tskhinvali echoed the Russian Foreign Ministry’s messages, with their Moscow-backed ‘foreign ministries’ saying that NATO’s “increased activities” in Georgia “pose serious threat to the region,” its stability and security.

Positions taken: the United States

The United States Mission to Geneva issued a press statement on July 3 on behalf of the U.S. participants of GiD, saying that U.S. “took positive note of the continued operation of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings in Ergneti and welcomed the continued efforts by the GID Co-Chairs and participants to re-convene regular meetings of the IPRM in Gali as soon as possible.”

“The United States appealed to the de facto authorities in Abkhazia to reopen immediately the Enguri Bridge and other crossing points along the administrative boundary line in light of the grave economic and humanitarian consequences imposed by such restrictions on freedom of movement,” reads the statement.

The United States encouraged the participants to “refrain from coercive measures”,  noting Russian restrictions on travel with Georgia “with particular concern”.

The U.S. delegation also “endorsed continuing information sharing” among the de-facto authorities in Abkhazia and the Russian and Georgian governments regarding the death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia “whose death in March in Russian custody underscored the human cost of the ongoing conflict.” It then “reiterated calls for full and transparent investigations” into the deaths of Archil Tatunashvili and Giga Otkhozoria.

The delegation further underscored that the U.S. “fully supports 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, saying the discussions were held “in a business-like atmosphere against the backdrop of recent developments on the ground.”

The co-chairs “regretted the crossing restrictions imposed on 27 June at the Abkhaz administrative boundary line,” and “called for these restrictions to be lifted without delay.” “It was noted that these measures have negatively affected freedom of movement, especially of persons in need of medical assistance and students traveling to take exams,” they said.

In her yesterday’s statement, Maja Kocijančič, the Spokesperson for EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy also underscored that “the restrictions that were imposed on the two crossing points at the Abkhaz Administrative Boundary Line as of 27 June severely affect freedom of movement and cause further difficulties for the conflict affected population,” and need to be lifted “to avoid further humanitarian hardship.”

She also noted that the recent developments in relations between the Russian Federation and Georgia “risk having a negative impact on the citizens of both countries.” “We consider the Russian decision to ban flights to Georgia as of 8 July unjustified and disproportionate,” Kocijančič stated.

She also said that the European Union’s “commitment to peaceful conflict resolution in Georgia remains as strong as ever,” and that EU “reiterates its firm support to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Georgia within its internationally recognized borders.”

The next round of the GID is scheduled for October 8-9, 2019.

This post is also available in: Georgian Russian

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