No progress has been reported by negotiators after the twenty third round of Geneva talks on March 27 with participants agreeing to hold next round of talks, launched following the August 2008 war, after three months.
Talks, known as Geneva International Discussions, are co-chaired by representatives from EU, UN and OSCE and involve negotiators, or as they are formally called “participants”, from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.
After this recent round on March 26-27, co-chairs from EU, UN and OSCE said in their joint press statement that participants of the discussions “welcomed continuing stability and calm” on the ground; they also said that the participants agreed to continue working on a revised draft of “statement of the Geneva International Discussions on non-use of force”, proposed by the co-chairs. Non-use of force and international security arrangement remain one of the central issues discussed during the Geneva talks.
Davit Zalkaliani, first deputy foreign minister, who led the Georgian team at Geneva talks for the first time, said that discussions were held in “business-like” atmosphere. He, however, said on non-use of force issue that “different positions that each side held before today’s session, remain unchanged.”
Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, told RIA Novosti news agency after the talks: “Hopes about fruitful round [of talks], unfortunately, have not been materialized again.”
The Georgian chief negotiator said that the participants would continue working on draft of the joint statement on non-use of force; he, however, also stressed that Tbilisi wants Moscow to reciprocate to Georgia’s unilateral non-use of force pledge.
“We have our principle position, that this declaration [referring to draft statement within Geneva talks] should not be considered as a substitute for the Russian Federation to take unilateral pledge on non-use of force,” Zalkaliani said.
Karasin said Tbilisi’s insistence on Russia’s non-use of force pledge was “completely unacceptable” for Moscow.
President Saakashvili made unilateral non-use of force pledge in late 2010 and since then Tbilisi is calling on Russia to reciprocate. A resolution on foreign policy priorities, which was unanimously approved by Georgia’s Parliament earlier this month, reaffirms Georgia’s commitment for non-use of force.
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. According to co-chairs, after the discussions in frames of these two working groups, they convened “short information meeting” to ensure better communication and exchange of views among the participants; the co-chairs stressed that holding of this meeting should in “no way be interpreted as a change of format.”
Deputy foreign minister Zalkaliani said that the Georgian negotiators expressed concern over intensified installation of barbed-wire fence across some parts of the South Ossetian administrative boundary line, which, he said, was negatively affecting daily life of the population living in those areas.
In the working group, addressing humanitarian issues, the participants also discussed possibility of organizing visits across the dividing lines for persons affected by the conflicts, according to co-chairs.
UN representative Antti Turunen said that discussions during this recent round were “very open, sometimes candid and critical.” “But in overall atmosphere was constructive. We really could finalize the work in two working groups, discussing all the agenda points,” he said.
The next, twenty fourth, round of Geneva talks are scheduled for June 25-26.