Negotiators were close to a reaching an agreement during the third round of Geneva talks on mechanisms to investigate incidents occurring across the administrative borders, but more time is needed for final agreement on the matter, U.S. chief negotiator said on December 18.
Daniel Fried, the U.S. assistant secretary of state, told journalists after the talks that progress was made on eight out of twelve issues related with the joint mechanisms to prevent and investigate security incidents.
The Georgian side insists that international observers should have full access to reported incident sites, including on the South Ossetian and Abkhaz side of the administrative borders to investigate reports on shootouts.
“We got close to an important agreement on a mechanism for settlement and investigation of disputes, and I regret that we did not achieve this agreement,” Fried said adding that EU special envoy Pierre Morel, who along with OSCE and UN special envoy’s co-chairs the talks, made “a fervent and very persuasive plea” for all the negotiators “to put aside the various frustrations, and agree to what was agreeable and to the text on the table.”
“The Georgian delegation pointed out that the text was less than they had hoped for, but nevertheless it was sufficient for them to agree to it,” Fried continued. “The Americans… agreed that the text outlining the dispute resolution investigation mechanism could have been much stronger, but it was much better than nothing.”
He said that he had “the strong sense that the Russians also wanted an agreement and would have been prepared to accept this text.”
“The South Ossetians and the Abkhaz, for their own part, were unable to accept it,” Fried added.
Giga Bokeria, the deputy foreign minister, who is Georgia’s chief negotiator at the Geneva talks, said: “This agreement was not reached because it was blocked by the Russian Federation and by those proxy de facto representatives [referring to Abkhaz and South Ossetian negotiators].”
The U.S. diplomat said that differences did not seem to be “ultimately unbridgeable, they just were unbridgeable today.”
“Had there been more time I suspect that a formula might have been worked out,” Fried said. “And some delegations, some representatives made the point that after all, emotions are running pretty deep and it will take time to work out all these issues.”
Grigory Karasin, deputy foreign minister, who is Russia’s chief negotiator at the Geneva talks, said on December 18 that discussions were sometimes "heated", as the “political positions of the sides are very different.”
“But what is important is that all participants understand the importance of tangible measures to strengthen security to prevent unnecessary and serious incidents,” Reuters reported quoting Karasin.
The parties agreed to hold the next round of talks in Geneva on February 17-18, 2009.