No progress has been reported by negotiators after twentieth round of Geneva discussions on June 8 with participants agreeing to hold next round of talks, launched following the August 2008 war, after four months.
Geneva talks are held in the format of two working groups with the first one discussing security-related issues and the second one – humanitarian issues. Talks, co-chaired by EU, UN and OSCE representatives, involve negotiators, or as they are formally called “participants”, from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.
The twentieth round of talks was held against the background of suspended meetings of Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) on the Abkhaz direction. IPRM – regular meetings between the parties on the ground on Abkhaz and South Ossetian directions to address ongoing security issues – is regarded to be one of the few tangible results achieved in frames of Geneva talks.
IPRM on the Abkhaz direction, which was usually held in Gali once a month, has not been held since March after Sokhumi denounced head of EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) Andrzej Tyszkiewicz as “undesirable person on the Abkhaz territory”.
Representatives from EU, OSCE and UN, who co-chair Geneva discussions, stressed in their joint statement after the twentieth round of talks “the need for effective functioning of the IPRMs as valuable instruments for defusing tensions and addressing issues of concern.”
Antti Turunen, the UN representative, said that there had been “serious incidents” in the Gali district of breakaway Abkhazia involving ten killings, including of three policemen, since the end of December. Three people, including two policemen, were killed in Gali in the most recent incident on May 28, which Sokhumi and Moscow said was carried out by “the Georgian special services.”
Sergi Kapanadze, Georgia’s chief negotiator and deputy foreign minister, said that suspension of IPRM meetings in Gali was “very alarming.”
“We are very worried about it, because if IPRM collapses this effectively means that we will not have an instrument for information exchange,” he said after the talks.
On June 7 participants of the Geneva discussions were briefed by international experts at information session about “the legal aspects of the concept of occupation”.
Grigory Karasin, Russia’s chief negotiator at the Geneva talks and deputy foreign minister, said the information session showed that describing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupied territories” had no legal justification. His Georgian counterpart, Sergi Kapanadze, said the information session made it even “more elucidated and more clear” that “illegal military presence by the Russian” and effective control of these territories by the Russian troops represented occupation.
Non-use of force and international security arrangements, as usually, was again one of the key issues discussed during the twentieth round of talks with Tbilisi and Moscow remaining far apart in their positions.
Georgian negotiator said that need for Russia to reciprocate Georgia’s non-use of force pledge was especially important in the light of Russia’s upcoming military exercises Kavkaz-2012.
One positive development noted by the UN representative, Antti Turunen, after the talks was that freedom of movement of the local population was “very well respected.” He said there had been some increases in the number of both people and vehicles crossing the bridge over Enguri river on the Abkhaz administrative border.
The next round of Geneva talks is scheduled to take place on October 3.