Co-chairs of the Geneva talks from EU, OSCE and UN expressed “concern” over a failure to hold 36th meeting of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, which was scheduled for April 24 in breakaway Abkhazia’s town of Gali.
IPRM, a framework established within the Geneva talks, which also involves a hotline to facilitate prompt exchange of information, serves as a venue for regular meetings, usually once in a month, between the Georgian and Abkhaz officials, as well as representatives of the Russian troops stationed in the breakaway region; meetings are chaired by UN representative and attended by head of EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM).
The April 24 IPRM meeting in Gali did not took place after the Abkhaz side refused to participate; next day the breakaway region’s foreign ministry released a statement accusing head of the EUMM, Andrzej Tyszkiewicz, of “disrespect” towards Sokhumi and declared him as “an undesirable person on the territory of Abkhazia”.
Breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign minister, Vyacheslav Chirikba, told RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, Ekho Kavkaza, on April 25 that Sokhumi was ready to continue participation in IPRM meetings, but on the condition that EUMM would be represented at the meeting by anyone except of its head Andrzej Tyszkiewicz.
Sokhumi accuses the EUMM head of ignoring the Abkhaz side’s requests to look into murder cases that took place in the Gali district in recent months. Chirikba claimed that when he asked Tyszkiewicz on the sideline of Geneva talks last month why he was ignoring those cases, the EUMM head responded, as claimed by Chirikba, that his mission would look into those cases involving Abkhaz “corpses” after Sokhumi lets the EUMM observers inside Abkhazia.
“He used exactly that word – ‘corpses’; that was very disrespectful and cynical,” Chirikba told Ekho Kavkaza.
EU, OSCE and UN co-chairs of the Geneva discussions said in their statement on April 25, that “the setting of a precedent that can work against the interests of all stakeholders, namely to work towards ensuring security and stability on the ground, should be avoided.”
Officials in Tbilisi say that there should be no precedent of revising agreed principles, among them, the right of each stakeholder to name its own representative who will be taking part in the meetings.
“The Geneva talks and IPRM are important mechanisms. So far they have been functioning based on the principles agreed between all the participants and it is very regretful that now these principles are being revised unilaterally,” Sergi Kapanadze, deputy foreign minister and Georgian negotiator in Geneva decisions, said on April 25.
Officials in Tbilisi also say that Sokhumi’s move is in fact orchestrated by Moscow; Sokhumi, however, claims it held no prior consultations with Moscow before declaring EUMM head as “undesirable person”.
“We are absolutely sure that Moscow is behind it,” Kapanadze said. “Moscow is a key decision-maker on these issues [for Sokhumi] and Moscow will be responsible if the Geneva talks are endangered.”
Co-chairs of the Geneva talks said that IPRM was “an important tool to address security issues as well as other pressing issues on the ground.”
“The Co-Chairs urge all participants to maintain the current procedures and mechanisms pertaining to the Geneva Discussions, including the full functioning of IPRMs, and will do their utmost to facilitate further efforts on ensuring the smooth operation thereof,” the co-chairs’ statement reads.