The 53rd 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 June 29-30 in the Palace of Nations.
Positions taken: Georgia
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said key discussion topics were arbitrary detentions of Georgian citizens, including Zaza Gakheladze, “de-facto annexation process” of occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia, including by “illegally annexing” part of Abkhazia’s Aibga village into Krasnodar Krai, and the “aggravated security and humanitarian situation” in the occupied regions.
Tbilisi officials also touched upon the common socio-economic space between Sokhumi and Moscow, and the discussions on forming a “Union State” between the latter and Tskhinvali.
The Georgian side highlighted intensified provocations by the Russian occupying forces, including the continuing “borderization” processes, installing artificial barriers and barbed wires, ongoing “militarization,” military drills, “creeping occupation,” and violations of Georgia’s airspace.
Concerning the humanitarian situation, Tbilisi raised the issue of discrimination against ethnic Georgians in both occupied regions, and their inability to receive education in their native language.
The Georgian side also stressed the consequences of restricted free movement along the dividing lines, including the drowning of four Gali Georgians trying to cross into Georgia proper across the Enguri River in April.
Georgian Foreign Ministry said that the Russian side and the representatives of Kremlin-backed authorities “again tried to politicize” the issue of safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons to their homes in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region, and “left the talks while it was being discussed.”
Positions taken: Russia, Sokhumi, Tskhinvali
The Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said the sides agreed that the situation on the ground remains “generally stable,” but claimed that a “speedy beginning” of the “delimitation process” by Tbilisi with occupied Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region “could really advance the interaction in this important direction.”
Moscow again claimed that ensuring reliable security in the region “is only possible” by signing a non-use of force by Tbilisi with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, the importance of which “is growing” amid increasing NATO and U.S. military presence in the Black Sea region, “demonstrated” by the recently-launched Sea Breeze 2021 drills.
The Russian side stated that Tbilisi’s efforts toward the return of IDPs are “politicized” as the Kremlin-backed authorities of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi are “deprived of their right” to weigh in on the issue at the UN.
Sokhumi representatives claimed at the discussion violations of “Abkhaz airspace” by “foreign states” are becoming frequent and uncontrollable, pointing fingers at Tbilisi for being behind the “deliberate provocations.”
Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali reiterated “growing concern over increasing NATO activity in Georgia, noting such actions are capable of undermining multilateral efforts toward long-term stability,” Sokhumi-based Apsnypress media outlet reported.
According to the same report, the sides also discussed prospects for resuming the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings, suspended since June 2018 over the Otkhozoria-Tatunashvili list.
GID Co-Chairs’ assessment
The GID Co-Chairs issued a press communiqué saying the participants “reviewed a number of issues, including detentions, missing persons, freedom of movement, and the specific security situation in certain areas.”
The press release noted the sides had “a substantive and frank exchange of views” on security arrangements and non-use of force, and reiterated commitment to the GID process. Possible joint efforts to address the post-pandemic needs of communities were also discussed, the Co-Chairs said.
The statement confirmed that “substantive discussion” on the return of IDPs could not take place due to a “walkout by some participants.”
The Co-Chairs called on the sides to increase efforts to build trust and confidence, and to ensure “constructive cooperation” with international humanitarian and human rights organizations.
While welcoming the continued Ergneti IPRM meetings, the Co-Chairs emphasized the need to resume Gali IPRM meetings as soon as possible.
This article was updated.