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49th Round of Geneva International Discussions

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The 49th 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 October 8-9.

The GIDs 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 October 8-9 negotiations, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that the special focus was made on the “destructive and provocative actions” of occupation forces on Tbilisi-controlled territory, in particular, near Chorchana village, as well as the “grave humanitarian results” of closing the crossing-points connecting Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia with the rest of the country.

According to the MFA, the participants from Tbilisi underscored “importance” to de-escalate the situation on the ground against the background of “aggravated situation.” They however noted the need for Russia to stop “destructive actions without any preconditions” and to continue dialogue in the existing formats. 

“Georgian participants discussed in details the grave security and humanitarian results caused by the occupation and factual annexation of the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali,” MFA said, adding that they also focused on “ongoing illegal militarization and military drills on the ground.” Erection of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the occupation line, kidnapping of local population and arbitrary detentions, were also discussed among the factors of destabilization on the ground.

MFA said, special attention was also paid to “grave violations of fundamental rights and freedoms” of people affected by the Russo-Georgia war of 2008, and Russia’s responsibility as the “power exercising effective control” on the occupied regions.

“Ethnic discrimination and oppression” of the locals of Gali and Akhalgori districts, and “grave results” of banning to receive education in their native language, were also raised at GID. According to MFA, participants from Moscow, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi left the room while discussing the return of refugees and internally displaced persons from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions as a result of ethnic cleansing.

Georgian representatives again stressed the need to “restore justice” in the cases of the deaths of Archil TatunashviliGiga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli. They focused also on death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia, a 29-year-old Georgian citizen, who died under unclear circumstances in Abkhazia. They called on Russia to “fully and unconditionally” fulfill the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement to withdraw its forces the Georgian territory and to ensure international security mechanisms on the ground.  

Positions taken: Russia, Sokhumi, Tskhinvali

The October 9 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said that the “escalation of tension” at the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area “provoked by the decision of Tbilisi” to construct a Georgian police checkpoint in late August was discussed at the recent GID. “It forced Tskhinvali to take responsive measures, including the construction of a checkpoint and the temporary closure of border with Georgia,” MID reported.

It also said that the “attempts to drag Georgia into NATO, the further militarization of this South Caucasus country, regular military drills of the Alliance on its territory” were raised by the Russian participants. “Together with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, we consider these processes undermine the regional security,” MID said.

MID also said that all of the participants of the meeting apart of Georgia assessed the situation “in the border areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia with Georgia” as “overall stable.” “All of the participants of the 49th round unanimously spoke in favor of resolving the existing humanitarian problems, including to simplify the border-crossing procedures, to ease people-to-people contacts, and to search of missing persons,” according to the Russian Foreign Ministry.

According to the MID, the Russian delegation at the 49th round of GID was led by the new Deputy Foreign Minister Andrey Rudenko.

Sokhumi and Tskhinvali echoed the Russian Foreign Ministry’s messages, putting the entire responsibility on the Georgian officials over the “aggravation of the situation and the possible further escalation on the Georgia-South Ossetia border.”

Positions taken: the United States

The United States Mission to Geneva issued a press statement, saying that the U.S. delegation “expressed concern over the recent escalation of tensions along the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL) with South Ossetia.”

It said, the U.S. “took positive note of the robust use of technical meetings” of the Ergneti IPRM to reduce tensions, and encouraged all participants to continue to make full use of the IPRM format to discuss and resolve issues of concern. It “once again called for the restart of regular meetings of the Gali IPRM as soon as possible.‎”

Welcoming reopening of the Enguri Bridge crossing point on the ABL with Abkhazia, the U.S. delegation “called on those responsible to reopen crossing points” along the ABL with Tskhinvali “as soon as possible to facilitate freedom of movement for the affected populations.”

“The United States welcomed the September 26 meeting of the Georgian and Russian foreign ministers, and expressed hope that renewed dialogue will enable them to make progress on issues of bilateral concern,” the press statement reads, calling on the de-facto authorities “to provide full access to international humanitarian organizations.”

The U.S. delegation “called for full sharing of information between Georgian and Russian authorities as soon as possible on the death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia.”

The U.S. “reiterated its call for those responsible to provide a full account of the circumstances” surrounding the deaths of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli, and emphasized “the need for all participants to aid in the investigation of the fate of missing persons regardless of the circumstances.”

In the press statement of October 9, the U.S. also reiterated its “full support” to Georgia’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”

GID co-chairs’ assessment

The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, saying that in Working Group I dealing with security issues, “the exchanges focused on the situation on the ground and the worrisome developments of August 2019, in particular in the Chorchana–Tsnelisi area.”

In this context, the Co-Chairs “welcomed the continuous efforts undertaken in the framework of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) in Ergneti to defuse tensions on the ground,” they also “welcomed the participants’ commitment to de-escalation and called on relevant actors to continue their dialogue to find a mutually acceptable solution.”

In addition, the Co-Chairs reiterated their call for the resumption of the work of the Gali IPRM “without further delay.” “While acknowledging the recent lifting of crossing restrictions imposed at the Abkhaz administrative boundary line (ABL) in June 2019, the Co-Chairs stressed the need to reopen all crossing points along the South Ossetian ABL,” the press communiqué reads.

According to Co-Chairs, in Working Group II dealing with humanitarian issues, “the co-moderators noted the impact of such restrictive measures on the freedom of movement and livelihoods of the conflict-affected population.”

“It was once again not possible to complete discussions on the issue of internally displaced persons/refugees due to a walkout by some participants in Working Group II. The Co-Chairs express regret at this disruption and remind participants of the need to engage constructively on all agenda items,” they stated.

The next round of the GID is scheduled for December 10-11.

This post is also available in: ქართული (Georgian) Русский (Russian)

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