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Irresponsible approach of Russia towards Geneva talks

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, June 23
Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) reports that representatives from the Russian Federation and Georgia’s de facto independent regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali do not respect the Geneva International Discussions (GID), as they left the 40th round of the talks when the Georgian side raised the issue of the peaceful return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) to the occupied territories.

“Such an irresponsible approach once again confirms Moscow's attitude towards the mandate and peace processes of the Geneva International Discussions,” Tbilisi officials stated.

The 40th round of the discussions was held on June 20-21, and as usual, the talks were co-chaired by representatives from the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as delegates from Georgia, Russia, the United States (US), and authorities from the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.

Before starting the discussions, a brief informational session was held about the existing situation along the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL), during which the successful example of Cyprus was discussed. An invited expert informed the participants about how free movement and communication between the two divided communities in Cyprus was established.

According to the MFA, the talks were held within a two meeting-group format. At one meeting, the sides discussed security and stability issues in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, while the second meeting concerned the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to their homes.

At the meeting, Georgia stressed that the so-called deal over the integration of the Tskhinvali army into the Russian Armed Forces means that ”instead of fulfilling its undertaken obligation to withdraw forces from the occupied territories, Russia intensifies its presence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia regions.”

In Working Group I, which dealt with security issues, the situation on the ground was assessed as relatively calm and stable.

The participants shared their assessments on the case of the killing of an unarmed Georgian civilian, Giga Otkhozoria, along the ABL by so-called border guard Rashid Kanji-Oghli on 19 May 2016. The co-chairs and several participants called for the reopening of the case to ensure that justice is served, because the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have recently dropped charges against the killer.

The participants extensively discussed ways to find an agreement on a non-use of force statement and agreed to continue to work on this matter before the next GID round with a view to achieving consensus.

The sides also discussed detentions along the dividing lines, access to farmland, and exchange of information on military activities.

In Working Group II on humanitarian issues, the participants reviewed recent developments, with a particular focus on the practical consequences deriving from the closure of the Khurcha-Nabakevi and Orsantia-Otobaia crossing points in March 2017.

They also held intense discussions on a number of issues relating to crossings, travel opportunities, documentation, missing persons, mother tongue-based multilingual education, cultural heritage and environmental concerns. In this context, the participants agreed to follow up on a number of concrete issues in the coming months.

However, given long-standing divergent positions, it was again impossible to conduct a discussion on issues relating to IDPs/refugees return to their home places.

Since the Russia-Georgia war in August 2008, the Geneva International Discussions have been the only format of dialogue between Georgia and Russia.

The next meeting will be held on October 10-11 2017.