Sokhumi supports continuation of Geneva talks, but its format and agenda should be changed, something that is strongly opposed by Tbilisi, foreign minister of breakaway Abkhazia, Viacheslav Chirikba, said on September 18.
The recent round of Geneva talks in June was disrupted after participants from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia walked out from one of the two working groups; representatives from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, backed by Russian negotiator, demanded removing issue of displaced persons and refugees from the agenda of talks.
“There have been problems during the twenty eighth round of talks [in June]; we want to avoid them, therefore we have to agree in advance about rules of the game,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported quoting Chirikba.
“Format and agenda – these are the main problems. We are not discussing the issue of refugees at all, but Georgians insist on discussion of this issue,” Chirikba said. “But what unites all the participants is the opinion that this forum [Geneva talks] has not exhausted itself, it is useful.”
He met on September 18 with co-chairs of the Geneva talks from EU, UN and OSCE, who are preparing the next round of the negotiations, scheduled for October 7-8.
“We understand that we are facing a difficult task of finding a compromise on agenda and format,” Chirikba said. “The Abkhaz side is against of thwarting the talks, but there are issues of principle, which we cannot give up.”
Before visiting Sokhumi co-chairs of the Geneva discussions met Georgian chief negotiator Davit Zalkaliani, the first deputy foreign minister, in Tbilisi on September 15. The Georgian Foreign Ministry said on September 15 that “destructive” actions aimed at change of format and agenda of talks, which were agreed upon when these talks were launched after the August 2008 war, are “totally unacceptable.”
“The Georgian delegation underlined that the working groups should function without obstructions and that it is necessary to focus on such key issues as non-use of force, international security mechanisms and return of refugees and internally displaced persons,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
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. Talks involve negotiators from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. They are taking part in the discussions in an individual capacity without identifying the entities they are representing and formally they are referred to as “participants” in order to avoid differences on the status of negotiators, in particular of representatives from the breakaway regions.