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Sokhumi threatens to disrupt Geneva talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, February 11
The Geneva talks will be suspended if an agreement on non-use of force is not reached, Advisor to the de facto Abkhazian President on International Issues Vyacheslav Chirikba said on February 8. “If Georgia shows sense and decides that this agreement is important, we are ready to continue the discussions,” Chirikba told journalists at the Association of Media Workers of the de facto Abkhazian Republic.

Sokhumi is ready to hold “tough” negotiations to solve “complicated” political problems, the de facto Advisor said. “However we do not need negotiations just for the sake of negotiations. We need substantive results. We are ready to wait for some time, however we are not ready to be part of something pretending to be a political process,” Chirikba stated.

At the ninth round of Geneva talks on January 28 the Russian and de facto Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities demanded the signing a non-use of force document between Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi. However the Georgian side refused to sign the agreement, saying that it could only be signed between Tbilisi and Moscow.

The de facto Sokhumi officials have named the failure to sign a non-use of force agreement as the “main problem” at the Geneva talks. “The Georgian side is only interested in two issues: the ‘de-occupation’ of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, i.e. withdrawing Russian troops from there, and deploying international forces in the conflict zones. This has caused the protest of the Abkhazian, Russian and South Ossetian delegations. We have declared that such unexpected 180 degree turns put the future of the Geneva talks in doubt,” Chirikba said, adding that Russia does not need to sign a non-use of force document with Georgia as “it is not afraid of assault from the Georgian side. The Caucasus states Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia, which are interested in stability, need this document.”

If the Geneva talks are suspended, the last channel connecting Abkhazia with Georgia, and Abkhazia and the EU, will be blocked, Chirikba said. “In this case there will be almost no links left, except some formal contacts,” he added.

Officials in Tbilisi have suggested that The Kremlin is behind the statements of the de facto authorities. The head of the Cabinet of the Abkhazian Government-in-Exile, Besik Silagadze, has said that there were some “positive signs” at the last few rounds of the Geneva talks which have roused Moscow’s discontent. “The Abkhazian side agreed to sign a document on the unconditional and secure return of IDPs to their homes and an agreement on security issues. Moscow has decided that the status quo reached after the 2008 conflict was under threat, so it has told first the de facto South Ossetian and then the de facto Abkhazian authorities to make such statements,” he told The Messenger.

Silagadze reiterated that the Georgian Government was ready to sign a non-use of force document but only with Russia. “Tbilisi has signed a number of documents and agreements with the de facto authorities but these have always been violated by them. So there is no use signing such documents with the secessionist 'Governments'. We will only sign an agreement with Russia, which supported the separatism in Georgia’s breakaway regions, escalated the conflict there and participated in military actions,” Silagadze said, adding that forcing Georgia to sign a non-use of force agreement with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi is an “attempt to hide Russia’s direct involvement in the conflicts in Georgia’s breakaway regions and present them as Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian conflicts.”

Silagadze called on the international community and the Co-Chairs of the Geneva negotiations to “persuade” the Abkhazian, South Ossetian and Russian sides to participate in the Geneva talks. The next round of these is planned for March 30.