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No changes on Geneva front

By Messenger Staff
Monday, June 14
Nine hours of debate yielded no visible results at the 11th round of Geneva international talks. The USA, Russia, Georgia, the EU, UN and OSCE, and representatives of the separatist administrations of South Ossetia and Abkhazia participated in them, but the sticking point remained the signing of a non-use of force agreement. Russia the separatists continued to demand that such a document be signed between Tbilisi and its separatists regions, which Tbilisi will clearly not agree to do, partly because non-use of force was part of the August 2008 ceasefire agreement which is still in force and partly because signing a document with the separatist regions would mean acknowledging they are independent states, a falsehood Georgia will not accept.

The only positive outcome of the meeting was a decision to hold the 12th round of Geneva negotiations on July 27. We can forecast however, based on the previous experience, that the 12th round will also result in no progress being made.

Whatever the results of the next meeting, Georgia should not initiate the suspension of these negotiations, because they provide the possibility to at least meet face to face with Russia's representatives. Furthermore it is obvious that Russia does not feel very comfortable at these negotiations because Abkhazia and South Ossetia are not considered to be legal entities, being treated as part of the Russian team.

The Sokhumi and Tskhinvali puppet regimes stubbornly continue to demand the signing of a non-use of force document. The diligent students are doing their Russian-prepared homework well. Not only Georgia but the rest of the participants say that an agreement on the non-use of force was signed by the two actual sides to the conflict in August 2008, but Russia insists that a new document be signed. Russia want to pretend that Moscow and its separatist puppets want peace but Georgia will not sign a document obliging it to renounce military action, but the logic of the Georgian position is clear. The document signed on August 12 clearly stated that Russia had occupied Georgian territory and a ceasefire was concluded between the two states on this basis, but Moscow wants its puppet regimes to be acknowledged as independent entities, thus making Russia a mediator rather than a belligerent. For Georgia and almost the entire world these territories are not independent states but parts of Georgia occupied by Russia.

If Georgia signs such a document it would also effectively abandon its claims that Russia is not fulfilling the terms of the Sarkozy-Medvedev ceasefire agreement. Russia takes the position it does precisely so it can avoid fulfilling these terms. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Giga Bokeria, head of the Georgian delegation at the Geneva talks, stated that Georgia is ready to sign such a document with Russia, which occupies these territories, but not with the separatists, a position supported by the US and all the other participants of the negotiations who are not Russian or in the pockets of the Russians. Nevertheless, they are repeatedly disrupted, and allowed to be, by the Russian faction sticking to this position.

Despite these problems the continuation of the Geneva talks in any format is beneficial for Georgia, because if they are abandoned discussion of Georgian issues might move to the UN Security Council, where Moscow is more powerful and has veto rights. However it is time the mediators understood that the talks are supposed to achieve something, and any attempt to prevent them doing so is another aggressive act, not a contribution to a debate.