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Still no progress after the 23rd round of Geneva Talks

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, March 29
The 23rd round of the Geneva Talks has been completed. All parties could not achieve any progress in negotiations. The talks were co-chaired by EU Special Representative Philippe Lefort, UN Representative Antti Turunen and the OSC Special Representative for Conflicts Andrii Deshchytsia.

The non-use of force remains one of the key issues discussed during the Geneva Talks. According to Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Zalkaliani, none of the parties involved in the talks changed their positions from the last round on the non-use of force. He added that all parties will continue working on drafting a joint statement on the non-use of force. "We have our principle position, that this declaration should not be considered a substitute for the Russian Federation taking a unilateral pledge on the non-use of force." the Deputy Minister stated.

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Ria Novosti that Tbilisi turned down a Russian-proposed draft document on the non-use of force between Georgia and the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

“Sadly, the work on this draft has once again been obstructed by the Georgian side which still insists on unilateral obligations on the non-use of force by Russia.” Karasin stated.

As usual the talks were divided into working groups: the first discussed security-related issues and the second discussed humanitarian issues.

In the working group addressing humanitarian issues, the participants discussed missing persons and the possibility of organizing visits across the dividing lines for persons affected by the conflicts, according to the co-chairs.

The working group concerned with security issues reiterated the need to resume the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) meetings.

After the meetings, the UN, EU and OSCE representatives issued a joint press statement giving a brief review of the 23rd round. All parties promised to improve communication as well as the exchange of information. The co-chairs of the Geneva Talks confirmed that holding a joint meeting should in "no way be interpreted as a change of format."

The parties agreed to hold their next session on June 25th and 26th, 2013.

Political expert Soso Tsiskarishvili thinks the format of the Geneva Talks is out of date and needs changing. According to Tsiskarishvili, it may be more effective if the negotiations divide into three different dialogues: Tbilisi-Moscow, Tbilisi-Sokhumi and Tbilisi-Tskhinvali. This would be better than the current format. Because the current format of talks brings four parties with different interests together, it is cumbersome and lessens the likelihood of reaching an agreement. Tsiskarishvili thinks the Ossetian and Abkhazian conflicts are significantly different and require different approaches.