Like in the previous rounds, non-use of force and international security arrangements were again focus of the eighteenth round of Geneva talks held on December 14, said co-chairs of the negotiations, launched after the August, 2008 war.
"Some participants came up with new contributions to the debate in response to the Co-Chairs’ previous proposal on concrete steps towards a transitional security regime. Discussions on this particular topic, as yet inconclusive, will be continued," co-chairs, representing EU, UN and OSCE, said in thier joint statement after the talks.
Sergi Kapanadze, the Georgian deputy foreign minister, said after the talks in Geneva, that co-chairs' plan, tabled during the previous rounds, was about how to get to the point when all the participants would make non-use of force pledge towards each other.
Georgia made such pledge last November and since then has been insisting on Russia to reciprocate. But Moscow refuses to make such pledge, claiming that it is not a party to the conflict and instead is offering to act, together with the United States and the European Union, as a guarantor of non-use of force treaties between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali on the one hand and Tbilisi and Sokhumi on the other.
"We hope that over the next rounds Russia will be able to issue this kind of [non-use of force] pledge and to reaffirm that it is not going to use force against Georgia. We need it in order to be able to move forward," Kapanadze said.
He said that such pledge from Moscow was especially relevant now against the background of "aggressive rhetoric" from the Russian officials; in particular he mentioned remarks by Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, who warned NATO against closer ties with Georgia and a statement by Secretary of Russia's National Security Council, Nikolai Patrushev, who accused Georgia of providing training ground for militants.
"These are completely groundless allegations and everybody knows this," the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister said, referring to Patrushev's remarks. Kapanadze also added, that such rhetoric from Moscow was "very concerning, very alarming" for Tbilisi.
Antti Turunen, the UN representative, said after the talks, that discussions were "businesslike and constructive".
"We can notice that number of major incidents on the ground has reduced considerably," he said.
Giedrius Cekuolis, a special envoy for the OSCE Lithuanian chairmanship, emphasized on the importance of addressing the issue of non-use of force and international security arrangements.
"I tried to be consistent in my position in calling on all the parties to redouble thier efforts to address international security arrangement issues, particularly non-use of force," he said. "Thus, I would like to urge once again the participants that have not yet made unilateral commitments on non-use of force to do so shortly so as to improve security situation and build confidence on the ground."
Starting from the next year, Irish diplomat Pádraig Murphy, whose country is taking over OSCE's chairmanship, will become a new co-chair of the Geneva talks from OSCE, replacing Cekuolis.
The participants have agreed to hold the next, nineteenth round of talks on March 28-29, 2012.