"A clear" non-use of force pledge by Russia would be "necessary" for sustainable security arrangements in Georgia's breakaway regions, EU foreign ministers said on February 27.
Situation in the South Caucasus was discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers of the 27 EU countries in Brussels on Monday agenda of which was topped by developments in Syria. In a statement on South Caucasus after the meeting the foreign ministers said, that strengthened relations between the EU and the three countries in the South Caucasus "have opened new avenues and opportunities for the EU to support conflict settlement efforts in the region."
On Georgia the statement reiterates EU's support to the country's territorial integrity and expresses once again "concern about the continuing Russian military and security-related presence and infrastructure reinforcements in the Georgian breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia." It also calls on Russia to fulfill its obligations under the August 12, 2008 ceasefire and its follow up agreement of September 8, 2008.
"The EU calls on the participants of the Geneva International Discussion to the conflict to continue to work together towards sustainable security arrangements. In this regard, a clear non-use of force commitment by Russia would be necessary," the EU foreign ministers said.
One of the aspect of security arrangement, discussed during the Geneva talks, launched after the August 2008 war, is non-use of force commitment, which Georgia has already unilaterally undertaken.
Russia refuses to reciprocate, citing that it is not a party into the conflict and instead is calling for a binding non-use of force treaties between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, as well as between Tbilisi and Sokhumi. Moscow says that it wants to act as a guarantor of such a treaty together with Washington and Brussels.
In the statement the EU foreign ministers reiterated commitment by Brussels "to remain engaged and involved in the stabilization and conflict resolution efforts in Georgia, including by continuing its engagement as co-chair in the Geneva Discussions, the efforts of the EUSR [EU special representative] for South Caucasus and the crisis in Georgia and the continued presence of the EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM)."
The EU foreign ministers welcomed "the steps undertaken by Georgia in implementing its strategy on engagement with the breakaway regions", but also called on Georgia to pursue "a more effective engagement policy and to take a pragmatic, positive and constructive approach to encourage trade, travel and investment across the Administrative Boundary Line" with the breakaway regions.
The EU also reiterated commitment to its approach of "nonrecognition and engagement policy" with the breakaway region - something the Abkhaz leader has recently slammed.
The EU foreign ministers said, that the EU would "enhance its engagement with the two breakaway regions, including to the benefit of the people living in these regions."
"This includes achieving greater EU visibility in the regions and active work to promote economic and trade relations, facilitate travel and start transformative and approximation work in line with its nonrecognition and engagement policy, in full respect of the principle of territorial integrity," the statement reads.
The EU also said it would continue efforts to help improve the situation of internally displaced persons in Georgia. While noting IDPs' "unconditional right to safe and dignified return", the EU also underlined the need "to enhance efforts to provide livelihood options and to provide conditions allowing those Internally Displaced Persons who choose to stay in Tbilisi administered territory to integrate fully into society."
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