Representatives from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, backed by Russian negotiator, demanded removing issue of displaced persons and refugees from the agenda of Geneva talks twenty-eighth round of which was held on June 18.
Talks were disrupted as participants from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia walked out from one of the working groups; there have been several cases of walkouts during the Geneva talks since they were launched in 2008 following the August war.
Geneva talks, co-chaired by representatives from the EU, OSCE and UN, are held in two working groups. Participants from Georgia, Russia and the U.S., as well as from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia are discussing security-related issues in the first working groups and humanitarian issues, including related with displaced persons, in the second working group.
In the working group two, participants from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali said that they see no reason in discussing issues related with refugees in frames of the Geneva talks as long as Tbilisi keeps on “politicizing” the issue by pushing year after year at the UN General Assembly a resolution calling for return of IDPs.
On June 5 the UN General Assembly passed Georgia-sponsored non-binding resolution on IDPs for the seventh consecutive year.
Moscow’s long-standing position on this issue is that tabling such resolution annually at the UN General Assembly undermines discussion of the issue of refugees and displaced persons at the Geneva international discussions.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on June 18 that its negotiator at the Geneva talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, agreed with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali representatives in the need of striking off IDP and refugee-related issue from the agenda.
Co-chairs of the talks from the EU, UN and OSCE have expressed regret over disruption of working group two “due to disagreements on certain agenda points among participants.”
Co-chairs said in a statement that issues discussed within the working group two are “purely humanitarian and did not have to be politicized.”
“Humanitarian-related issues were part of the Geneva International Discussions’ mandate. Therefore, the failure to address them was a worrying development,” co-chairs said, adding that they will continue consultations with all participants in order to find mutually acceptable solutions.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Zalkaliani, said that after refusing to engage constructively in the discussions, participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali walked out and “tried to join” working group one, which addresses security-related issues. Tbilisi has always been strongly against of any change in already established format of the discussions in the two working groups.
“We are grateful to co-chairs for their firm and clear stance on retaining the Geneva international discussions in its format and agenda,” the Georgian chief negotiator said.
The U.S., whose representative also participates in the Geneva talks, said in a statement that “the decision by the South Ossetian and Abkhaz participants to cut short their participation in the working group on humanitarian affairs… damaged efforts to resolve these issues through dialogue, and brought this round of discussions to an abrupt conclusion.”
The next round of talks has been scheduled for October 7-8.