Talks in Geneva on October 15 were suspended with Georgian and Russian negotiators now expected to meet again on November 18.
Pierre Morel, the EU’s special representative for the Georgia crisis, who represents the EU at the talks, said the negotiations had “encountered procedural difficulties” and all parties had decided to suspend the meeting, Reuters and The Associated Press reported.
Morel was apparently referring to the unresolved question of whether Abkhaz and South Ossetian representatives should be allowed to participate in the official plenary session. The session will see negotiators from Georgia, Russia and the United States engage in talks in the presence of the co-organizers – the UN, EU and OSCE.
Sergey Shamba, the Abkhaz foreign minister, told journalists in Geneva that no direct talks were held with the Georgian side as the sides had failed to reach an agreement on the format of further negotiations.
The Georgian negotiator, Giga Bokeria, the deputy foreign minister, said the Georgian delegation was ready to meet the Abkhaz and South Ossetian representatives outside the official plenary session, within informal working groups, where negotiators are represented in an individual capacity without identifying the entities they are representing.
He, however, insisted if this were to happen the Tbilisi-loyal Abkhaz and South Ossetian communities should be represented, too. Malkhaz Akishbaia, the head of the Abkhaz government-in-exile, and Dimitri Sanakoev, the head of the South Ossetian provisional administration, were both in Geneva. “No single community in Abkhazia or South Ossetia has the exclusive right to represent the entire population,” Bokeria said.
The authorities from the breakaway regions, however, reject this line of thinking.
Meanwhile, both sides have accused each other of thwarting the plenary session.
Grigory Karasin, the Russian deputy foreign minister, said “Georgia has thwarted the event by refusing to participate in the plenary session.”
“We would have participated in the first plenary session if the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides were also invited there,” he added.
President Saakashvili told journalists in Brussels on October 15 that Russia walked out of the Geneva talks – something, he said, he had “feared” would happen.
“Although Georgia was very constructive, although there was an opportunity to hold serious talks with the mediation of the EU and the United States, the Russians - as I feared and as I suspected – left the negotiations and walked out,” Saakashvili said . “If anyone still had an illusion that it was possible to achieve something in these conditions, they should now have a rest.”
He said that the actions of the Russian negotiators "basically means that Russia has no interest whatsoever at this stage in any diplomatic process.”
Western media sources reported earlier on October 15 that international mediators had shuttled between the Russian and Georgian delegations speaking with them separately, trying to bring them together. Reuters quoted an unnamed diplomat as describing the contacts as “proximity talks.”
Heikki Talvitie, a special representative of the OSCE chairman-in-office, said after the talks that he and two other co-chairs of the negotiations - Johan Verbeke of the UN and Pierre Morel of the EU – decided “to adjourn the day's afternoon discussions.”
“Today, we have started the process of international discussions,” he said. “All participants came to Geneva and showed their willingness to engage. They all expressed their views… Our three organizations [the EU, UN and OSCE] are fully committed to take this process forward. Our aim is very practical; to strengthen stability in the region and improve the humanitarian situation.”
Giga Bokeria has described the Geneva process and its format as a victory for Georgia.
“The most important thing is that for the first time we have a format, wherein Georgia is no longer in a minority, wherein Russia has no false role as mediator,” he told journalists in Geneva. “These are talks between Russia and Georgia on the problems existing between us and here we have respected international organizations. That was our objective for many years and its realisation started today.”