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Exact Format of Geneva Talks Remains Unclear
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Oct.'08 / 13:12

A Georgian delegation, led by two deputy foreign ministers, Giga Bokeria and Grigol Vashadze, left for Geneva to take part in talks scheduled to open on October 15.

The delegation also includes Malkhaz Akishbaia, head of the Abkhaz government-in-exile, according to the Georgian Foreign Ministry. Dmitry Sanakoev, the head of the Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian provisional administration, is also part of the delegation, Sanakoev’s press office said on October 14.

The exact format of the talks is still unknown.

The OSCE, which along with the EU and UN, is a co-host of the talks, said in a press release on October 13 that the talks would include officials from the EU, UN, OSCE, U.S., Russia and Georgia.

“In addition, the representatives of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will take part in the talks,” it added, but did not go into further details of the format or exact nature of the talks.

Vashadze told journalists before his departure that the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides would not participate “in any talks.”

“Because on the one hand the Georgian side will not allow it to happen and on the other hand it is not envisaged by the format of the talks,” he added without specifying what the format would be.

Georgian television station Rustavi 2, normally used for leaking official views or information, acknowledged that Abkhaz and South Ossetian officials would be in Geneva, but claimed they would be on the Russian delegation.

The Geneva talks are expected to be opened with a plenary session involving officials from the United States, Russia and Georgia.

The original plan, as proposed by the organizers, was to precede talks after the plenary session with informal meetings of two working groups, Deutsche Presse-Agentur (DPA) reported last week, quoting an unnamed EU diplomat in Brussels.

The groups will include representatives of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. But to avoid any appearance of recognizing the regions, the working groups will meet informally, meaning that participants are only identified by name, not by the entity they represent, the EU diplomat said.

The original proposal is to hold meetings of the working groups at least every fortnight.

Agence France-Presse (AFP), however, reported on October 13, quoting another unnamed EU diplomat, that the exact nature of the talks and the framework of how they would proceed had not yet been finalized.

Vashadze said that Tbilisi would concentrate on three key issues at the talks: full implementation of the August 12 and September 8 accords between the Russian and French presidents; the return of internally displaced persons and restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity.

The Geneva talks will be preceded by a meeting on October 14 between OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister Alexander Stubb; French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, whose country holds the EU presidency; EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana; EU Commissioner for External  Relations Benita Ferrero-Waldner; and UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

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