Negotiations on a joint non-use of force statement at the Geneva International Discussions (GID) “are not over,” and “will continue” at the upcoming round on March 27-28, Georgian Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze said on March 22, two days after Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin announced that the document was nearing to be adopted.
“We will continue working with our partners so that we adopt a statement that will serve our objectives and interests, and that will be aimed at ensuring that Russia fulfils the obligations undertaken by the [August 12, 2008] ceasefire agreement,” FM Janelidze told the media today.
Janelidze’s statement follows the March 21 remarks by Deputy Foreign Minister Davit Dondua, who confirmed that “some progress” had been made on non-use of force statement in the last 1-1.5 years. “During the last round of discussions in December we had a certain aligning of positions, but we still have work to do, and I would refrain from saying whether the final agreement will be concluded at the upcoming or next rounds,” he said.
Davit Dondua also emphasized that the document was “a political statement,” and that it did not release the Russian Federation from its obligation to reciprocate to Georgia’s unilateral non-use of force pledges. The Deputy Foreign Minister also stressed that the statement, if signed, would have “nothing to do” with the status of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region.
“We hope that negotiations on the statement will be carried out constructively, and if they are concluded successfully, we hope additional room will appear at the Geneva talks for launching effective discussions on peaceful conflict settlement, and if higher political engagement will be necessary for that, Georgia has already voiced its readiness to do so,” Dondua also noted.
UNM’s Grigol Vashadze, who served as Georgia’s Foreign Minister in 2008-2012, convened a special press briefing on March 20, saying reports that Georgia was to join the statement indicated that the country had retracted from its earlier position to “categorically demand” that Russia reciprocated to Tbilisi’s unilateral non-use of force commitment.
“Unfortunately, the Georgian delegation enabled the Russian Federation to use the document for propagandistic purposes, and allowed Moscow to claim wherever possible that it no longer needs to make the non-use of force pledge,” Vashadze added.
Vashadze also highlighted that “any reference to Abkhazia and the so called South Ossetia in the declaration text, would amount to changing the Geneva format, to changing the status of the representatives of the occupation regimes, who have been attending the consultations only in their personal capacities, and what’s even worse, to agreeing to grant them the features of international legal entities.”
MP Sergi Kapanadze of the European Georgia commented on the matter as well, telling Civil.Ge that it was “absolutely unclear” what Georgia was to get from joining the statement.
“We have already made the non-use of force pledge, and have been expecting the same from the Russian Federation; now we found out that the issue is no longer on the agenda and only a general declaration will be adopted, which will set no obligations on the Russian Federation,” Kapanadze said.
The European Georgia lawmaker also noted the expectations of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that Moscow would make concessions and would become more constructive after the joint statement was misleading and would “harm the country’s national interests.”