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50th Round of Geneva International Discussions

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The 50th 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 10-11.

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 December 10-11 negotiations in Geneva, the Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said that “release of illegally detained doctor Vazha Gaprindashvili by Tskhinvali occupying regime” has been the key issue at these discussions.

According to MFA, Participants from Tbilisi have also focused on “extremely deteriorated security and human rights situation” in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, as well as the villages adjacent to the line of Russian occupation.

“In this context, recent frequent provocations from Russia and its occupying regimes – in particular, along the Chorchana village, on Georgian government-controlled territory – have been underscored, [which include] erection of barbed wires, closure of occupation line and frequent cases of kidnapping,” the MFA said.

It further reported that against the background of “frequent provocations,” the necessity for restoration of Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings in Gali and Ergneti “without preconditions, in full accordance with fundamental principles and rules” has also been underscored.

Speaking of “grave” humanitarian situation in Gali and Akhalgori districts of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, respectively, including the restrictions on freedom of movement along the line of occupation.

In occupied Abkhazia, Gali is home to some 40,000 ethnic Georgians, who make up almost all of the district’s population;

In occupied Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, Akhalgori district is home to approximately 2,500 ethnic Georgians, who make up 55.5% of the district’s population.

Participants from Tbilisi noted as well that the recent death of Margo Martiashvili due to delayed transfer to Tskhinvali hospital from Ikoti village of occupied Akhalgori Municipality amid crossing point closure, is one of the clear examples of “grave consequences of restriction of freedom of movement and access on medical care along the occupation line.”

Ethnic discrimination and oppression of Georgians living in occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, as well as the ban on receiving education in their native language have also been raised by participants from Tbilisi as part of “deliberate Russification.”

According to MFA, the need to “restore justice” in the cases of the deaths of Archil TatunashviliGiga Otkhozoria, Davit Basharuli and Irakli Kvaratskhelia has been again raised at the negotiations.

Noting that the Russian Federation “continues illegal occupation of undivided regions of Georgia and makes steps for their factual annexation,” the Georgian delegation said, “Russia’s illegal military presence in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, active militarization and constant military drills,” represent threat against Georgia.

Positions taken: Russia, Sokhumi, Tskhinvali

The December 11, statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said participants from Moscow expressed their concern over the continued tension “at the Georgia-South Ossetian border,” in particular near the Tsnelisi village.

They “again called on the parties to reveal restraint, [and] find ways to regulate disputed issues,” first of all, in the frames of Ergneti IPRM, as well as to “rapidly launch negotiations between Georgia and South Ossetia over the borderline.”

According to MID, on the sidelines of the Geneva International Discussions in the trilateral format between Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia, under mediation of the UN, the materials related to Kvaratskhelia case were also exchanged.

Participants from Sokhumi said, despite their readiness to work on “all of the key issues,” and find solutions to humanitarian challenges, they “did not receive necessary response from Georgian representatives, and [those issues] remain unsolved throughout many years now.”

Participants from Tskhinvali mainly focused on developments at Chorchana-Tsnelisi area, calling on Tbilisi to dismantle “the illegal checkpoint, withdraw its law enforcers to the Georgian territory,” and to establish the security zone from Tsnelisi village to Chorchana. 

Stressing importance of discussing the current situation at the IPRM meetings, they expressed their readiness to continue working in this format. Moreover, Tskhinvali representatives also spoke of necessity of providing joint delimitation works on the “South Ossetia-Georgia state border.”

Positions taken: the United States

The United States Mission to Geneva issued a press statement, saying that the U.S. Delegation “expressed particular concern at the ongoing detention of Dr. Vazha Gaprindashvili and echoed calls from across the international community for his immediate release.”

The U.S. also expressed concern over “additional restrictions” placed on crossing points and “deteriorating humanitarian conditions” in Tskhinvali region amid ongoing crossing point closures.

“The United States called for the immediate end to borderization, arbitrary detentions, and restrictions on freedom of movement and urged the relevant authorities to allow unimpeded access for humanitarian organizations to the full territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the press statement reads. 

Welcoming the exchange of information between the Georgian and Russian delegations on the death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia, the U.S. “called again for a full and accurate accounting of the deaths of Archil Tatunashvili, Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli and expressed full support for continuing investigations with regard to missing persons.”

It also shared regret that participants from the Russian Federation and Moscow-backed Tskhinvali and Sokhumi authorities “once again refused to engage in discussion of internally displaced persons and chose instead to walk out.”

GID co-chairs’ assessment

The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, saying that “over the past decade, engagement by participants contributed to relative stability, while core security and humanitarian issues have remained unresolved.”

“We are now faced with a deteriorating situation on the ground and the participants’ diverging positions on key issues of the agenda have become further entrenched,” the Co-Chairs said, noting that since August 2019, “there are serious security challenges in the Chorchana-Tsnelisi area.”

“People continue to suffer hardship. Restrictions to freedom of movement have been imposed on several occasions at crossing points with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Crossing points on the South Ossetian administrative boundary line (ABL) have been closed for more than five months this year. This has caused an increased number of incidents, including detentions,” the stated.

Noting that “although the 50th round took place in a business-like atmosphere, it was overshadowed by the above-mentioned challenges leading to intense exchanges.” According to them, “it was not possible to address issues relating to internally displaced persons/refugees due to a walkout by some participants,” as in previous rounds.

GID Co-Chairs called on participants “to reduce tensions” at Tskhinvali occupation line, reopen all crossing points, release detainees, and engage constructively in dialogue — in Geneva, as well as in the Gali and Ergneti IPRMs.

The next round of the GID is scheduled for March 31-April 1, 2020.

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

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