Ireland's Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Eamon Gilmore, whose country holds OSCE’s rotating chairmanship, starts two-day visit to Georgia on June 12 as part of his trip to three South Caucasus states.
Before start of his visit to Georgia, the OSCE chairman-in-office said in an email interview with Civil.ge that exploring ways for restoring OSCE presence in Georgia would be one of the issues on the agenda of his talks with the Georgian leadership. Before Georgia, he held talks in Armenia on June 11-12 and will then visit Azerbaijan on June 13-14.
Below is Q&A with the OSCE chairman-in-office:
Q.: OSCE closed its mission in Georgia in June, 2009 after a failure to agree on mandate extension following the August, 2008 war. There have been attempts (including through the Greek chairmanship's proposals) to re-establish the mission in Georgia but all have failed. Are there any efforts ongoing right now to restore OSCE mission in Georgia or attempts have been shelved and the issue is not even being discussed right now? If efforts are still ongoing, can you elaborate about them?
A.: We are exploring ways of having an OSCE presence on the ground. This is definitely one of the topics that I will discuss with the Georgian political leadership, and the OSCE Chairmanship is talking with a number of stakeholders about different options and possibilities. However, at this stage I don’t have anything to announce.
Q.: Together with EU and UN, OSCE chairmanship's representative acts as a co-chair of the Geneva Discussions. Is there any concrete target, which you want to achieve during the Irish chairmanship or the priority is just to keep these talks running and you are not setting any ambitious goals?
A.: The 20th round of the Geneva Discussions took place last Friday. In my view the Geneva Discussions remain a credible process and the full engagement of all concerned helps to reduce tensions. Dialogue is the only way forward, and the Irish Chairmanship’s goal is to ensure that we continue to make progress in this format.
We have seen some progress over the years, most notably through the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms, which were set up through the Discussions to address issues on the ground. Through these mechanisms we have established functioning hotlines to facilitate the prompt exchange of information. The meetings themselves also provide an important means to discuss incidents on the ground and have resulted in a number of exchanges of detainees. Alongside this, the OSCE has achieved some important practical results for individuals affected by the conflict through projects it is facilitating, such as enabling access to water resources.
Q.: Georgia will hold parliamentary elections this October. There is a consensus across the Georgian political spectrum and civil society that there should be a large, long-term international election observation mission and sooner the observers come the better. The scope of OSCE/ODIHR mission will be defined by needs assessment mission [which is currently visiting Georgia], but can you give a tentative timeframe, when do you think it will be possible to deploy long-term OSCE/ODIHR observation mission?
A.: I welcome the timely invitation to the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights to observe the elections from the Georgian authorities. This will allow the experts adequate time to assess the situation. As you note, the Needs Assessment Mission is currently taking place. It is up to this mission to recommend the format and duration of the long-term observation team. I will not second-guess the experts.
Q.: You will be visiting Georgia as part of your trip to the South Caucasus states. Armenia and Azerbaijan have accused each other of triggering recent clashes that caused casualties on the both sides this month. Do you think it is a warning sign that a large-scale armed conflict may resume between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
A.: I strongly condemn all loss of life, and reiterate that there is no alternative to a peacefully negotiated settlement of the conflict. During my visit I am calling on all parties and all actors, to refrain from the use or threat of force and to abstain from retaliatory measures.
The conflict will not be resolved by the use of force. I fully support the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to work with the sides on strengthening the ceasefire and in finding a negotiated solution.
We need to build confidence and trust. For this we also need genuine will and commitment on the part of those directly involved. The OSCE was founded to help bridge differences between countries and between people. We can provide a forum for dialogue and support the sides in working towards a lasting peace, but we cannot impose a solution.
Any escalation in hostilities should be avoided, and the recent incidents are of concern. However, I believe that a firm and decisive message by the international community that force will not resolve the conflict is helping to reduce the tensions.