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OSCE Secretary General meets Georgian leaders

By Natalia Kochiashvili
Thursday, June 17
The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Secretary General Helga Maria Schmid, who is paying a visit to Georgia held official meetings with Georgian leaders and attended the 100th Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) in Ergneti.

According to the government administration, during the meeting with PM Irakli Gharibashvili, they discussed issues of cooperation between Georgia and the OSCE. The OSCE's significant involvement in the peaceful settlement of the conflict in Georgia and the restoration of trust between the war-torn population was underlined. The PM thanked the OSCE Secretary General for her efforts in this direction. The role of the OSCE Co-Chairs in the Geneva International Talks and in the format of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism was emphasized as well.

Gharibashvili spoke about raising the issue of immediate and unconditional release of Zaza Gakheladze and all other illegally detained Georgian citizens at all levels, including in the format of IPRM. The PM stressed that despite the difficult security and humanitarian challenges, the Government of Georgia remains committed to the peaceful settlement of the conflict and the process of democratic development of the country.

In addition, Gharibashvili said that the Georgian side appreciates the involvement of the ODIHR in the election observation process. He expressed readiness for the country to receive the maximum number of ODIHR observers in the upcoming local elections, this fall.

The meeting also focused on the active role of the Government Administration's Human Rights Secretariat and its involvement in OSCE-organized activities on human rights and gender.

According to the administration, the OSCE Secretary General praised Georgia's mediation in the Caucasus and the involvement of the PM in this regard. Note that with the active facilitation of Gharibashvili and the involvement of Philip Reeker, the Azerbaijani side released 15 Armenian citizens detained during the conflict.

The President of Georgia Salome Zurabishvili met with the OSCE SecGen at the Orbeliani Palace. They agreed to hold a conference of women leaders in Georgia (the role of women in peace and security). The parties discussed the forthcoming local elections and stressed the importance of the participation of election observation missions, especially the OSCE/ODIHR observation mission.

The issue of the occupied territories of Georgia, the deteriorating humanitarian situation as a result of the closure of checkpoints in the occupied territories by the de facto regime, as well as human rights violations and abductions, in particular the case of Zaza Gakheladze were discussed at the meeting. Talks focused on the importance of strengthening the Geneva International Talks and increasing the effectiveness of the format.

Georgian Parliament Speaker Kakha Kuchava discussed with the OSCE SecGen Russia’s actions and the “dire humanitarian situation” in Georgia’s occupied regions. The sides also reviewed the situation in the region, stressing Georgia’s role in ensuring regional peace and stability.

During the meeting, Foreign Minister David Zalkaliani expressed concern over the intensification of Russia’s aggressive politics in the South Caucasus and the Black Sea region. He also briefed Secretary General Schmid on Moscow’s steps towards the illegal annexation of Georgian regions, including borderization processes, the common socio-economic space program with Sokhumi, free movement-related restrictions, and gross human rights violations, among others.

At the IPRM meeting in Ergenti, Schmid, and the Director of Security and Defence Policy at the European External Action Service, Joanneke Balfoort, delivered introductory remarks during the opening session. They praised the commitment of the participants and noted the need to resolve issues of common interest in a constructive and pragmatic manner. They highlighted that the importance of dialogue in a conflict setting must not be taken for granted, but should be nurtured and used to stabilize the security of the conflict-affected population.

The secretary General stressed the need to continue engaging with all stakeholders: “It is a special moment for me to be here today, having been closely involved in setting up this mechanism. It remains crucial for defusing tensions and solving concrete security and humanitarian issues, and also to alleviate the burden of the conflict-affected people.”