Participants of the Geneva talks, launched after the August 2008 war, continued discussions at the recent, thirtieth round of talks on December 10 on non-use of force and other issues, regularly addressed at these negotiations, but no progress was reported.
Co-chairs of the talks from EU, OSCE and UN said in their joint statement after the meeting that as part of the review of the security situation, participants also discussed a treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” between Moscow and Sokhumi.
Georgian negotiators said after the meeting that they raised the issue of “alarming security implications” of new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi, signed in Sochi late last month.
Georgia’s new chief negotiator in the Geneva talks, deputy foreign minister Davit Dondua, reiterated Tbilisi’s position that this treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” represents Russia’s “further step towards the annexation of Georgia’s occupied region of Abkhazia.”
He also said that it was a manifestation of Russia’s “far-reaching plans to hinder the pro-Western policies of the sovereign states, including by means of occupation and annexation.”
The Russian side responded that the treaty has nothing to do with “annexation” and dismissed it as a “propagandistic cliché” of Tbilisi and the West.”
“Security issues in Trans-Caucasus gained special relevance and require a very close attention against the background of Georgia’s unrestrained NATO aspirations, ‘package of enhanced cooperation’, offered to Georgia by NATO during the Wales summit in September, plans to establish NATO military infrastructure on the territory of Georgia, as well as [against the background of] renewed negotiations on supply of new weapons to Georgia by the Western states,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released after the thirtieth round of Geneva talks.
“In this context, representatives of Russia and Abkhazia explained that signing of the agreement on alliance and strategic partnership on November 24… was aimed at strengthening of statehood and self-defense capabilities of Abkhazia and it does not contain provisions posing threat to any third party, including Georgia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
In a statement after the meeting, the U.S., whose representatives also participate in the Geneva talks, expressed concern about the treaty, “noting its potential negative impact on regional stability and the Geneva Discussions.”
On non-use of force, which is one of the key issues regularly discussed at the Geneva talks, the Georgian side again called on Russia to reciprocate its unilateral pledge on non-use of force made in 2010. Russia refuses to make such declaration as it does not consider itself to be a party in the conflict and instead wants Tbilisi to sign non-use of force treaties with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali in which Moscow will act as “a guarantor” of such treaties.
Georgian deputy foreign minister, Davit Dondua, said that amid Russia’s “growing assertiveness” and its efforts to prevent neighbors from “realizing their free foreign policy choice”, as well as amid militarization of Georgia’s occupied regions, Russia’s non-use of force commitment would be “minimal mechanism, preventing further aggression from Moscow.”
Co-chairs of the talks said that the participants also “continued working” on a draft joint statement related to non-use of force. But differences remain on this issue as well.
Georgian deputy foreign minister, Davit Dondua, said that the Georgian side has spared no effort to advance drafting of the joint statement of participants on non-use of force.
But he also reiterated Tbilisi’s position that “this statement should in no way substitute the non-use of force commitment from the Russian Federation.”
Geneva talks are held in two working groups – one addressing security issues and another one humanitarian. In the second working group, co-chairs said, participants discussed issues related to freedom of movement, missing persons, conservation and restoration of cultural heritage, education and water projects. Co-chairs said that “the issue of IDPs and refugees was also raised.”
Co-chairs of the Geneva talks also said that the participants of the negotiations “assessed the general security situation on the ground as relatively calm with no major security incidents occurring since the previous round in October.”
The U.S. delegation in the Geneva talks said in the statement that “while differences remained on several of the agenda items and political developments in the region, participants generally engaged constructively in both working groups.”
Next round of the Geneva talks has been scheduled for March 17-18, 2015.