Non-use of force commitment will again top the agenda of Geneva talks, fifteenth round of which will be held on March 4.
The issue of non-use of force commitment and its modalities has long been the major point of contention in the EU, OSCE and UN-mediated talks, involving negotiators from Tbilisi, Moscow, Washington, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on March 2, that at the fifteenth round of talks it would call on Russia to reciprocate Tbilisi’s non-use of force pledge, voiced by President Saakashvili in November and reiterated in written in letters to EU, OSCE, UN, NATO and the United States.
“With this step Russia will demonstrate that its intentions towards Georgia are peaceful and no further military aggression is planned against its sovereign neighbor,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
Russia says that it has no intention to make such pledge as it does not consider itself as a party into conflict and instead calls on Tbilisi to agree on signing a non-use of force treaty with Tskhinvali and Sokhumi.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on February 24, that although Tbilisi made unilateral pledge on non-use of force in November, President Saakashvili’s “belligerent statements” since then “significantly devalued” Georgia’s commitments and triggered concern of Tskhinvali and Sokhumi.
“Leadership of these republics [Abkhazia, South Ossetia] have stated, that they would seek in Geneva concluding legally binding document on non-use of force,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said and added that Moscow supported this position.
Georgia says that Moscow’s insistence on non-use of force treaty between Tbilisi and Sokhumi, as well as between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali “has a sole aim of legitimizing the proxy regimes” and “is a clumsy excuse to avoid its own responsibility of non-use of force.”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on March 2, that the second issue it would prioritize at the fifteenth round of Geneva discussions was establishment of “international security arrangements in the occupied Georgian regions.” Tbilisi wants to see presence of, what it calls, “international peacekeeping and police forces” in the breakaway regions. Return of displaced persons in safety and dignity will also be discussed, the Foreign Ministry said, adding that “Russia has been blocking the return process through various artificial reasons.”
“This time, we hope that Moscow will unlock the process and substantial discussions will take place on the modalities of return,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.