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U.S. Negotiator on Geneva Talks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Oct.'08 / 11:53

Daniel Fried, the assistant secretary of state, who represented the United States at the Geneva talks, said there had to be arrangements made to prevent “procedural issues blocking actual progress” at the next meeting.

“Hopefully some arrangements can be made before November 18 [when the next meeting is planned] to move the process forward,” he told a news conference in Geneva.

While noting that both the Georgian and Russian delegations had acted, as he put it, in a “practical and constructive sprit,” Fried chastised the Abkhaz and South Ossetian representatives for failing to show such a constructive stance.

“It was clear that both Russians and Georgians were looking for the ways to move forward and resolve the problems, rather than to create them – that was my sense,” he said. “Unfortunately, the de facto authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, who were present at the meeting, did not exhibit such a constructive spirit; they chose instead to walk out of the informational session and they demanded, after they walked out, as a precondition for further talks basically a treatment, which would have meant that they were at full national delegations, which no one was prepared to do, except of Russia.”

“The Georgian government showed it was firm in defending its principle of territorial integrity, but actually creative and constructive trying to find ways within that principle to move forward,” Friend said. “Listening to [Deputy Foreign] Minister Karasin, it was clear that he was trying to find practical ways forward.”

He, however, also noted that given “the overwhelming dependence” of South Ossetia and Abkhazia on Russia, Moscow had to encourage the de facto authorities “to behave in the way that is responsible.”

Fried said that the Georgian and Russian delegations had not even held a face-to-face meeting on October 15.

“They were not in the same room at the same time,” he said and added that the Russian side did not attend the opening plenary session, while the Georgian side did not attend a subsequent “informal informational session.”

Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, a Georgian negotiator, 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 separatists, however, reject this line of thinking.

Fried said that at the informal sessions there should be representatives of both “the breakaway regimes” and also “Abkhaz and South Ossetians who regard South Ossetia and Abkhazia as part of Georgia.”

He said that the United States was “a full participant” of the Geneva talks, which are held under the formula 3+3 – three national delegations: Georgia, Russia and the U.S., and three international organizations: the EU, UN and OSCE.

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