The U.S. Department of State said it “does not recognize the legitimacy of any so-called ‘treaty’” on alliance and integration between Russia and Georgia’s breakaway region of South Ossetia, which is scheduled to be signed on March 18.
“We are concerned by reports that the signing of this so-called agreement may coincide with the current round of Geneva discussions on the conflict in Georgia,” State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said in a statement on March 17.
Negotiators from Georgia, Russia, the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali will meet on March 18 for the thirty first round of the Geneva talks, which were launched after the August 2008 war.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that timing of the signing of the treaty between Moscow and Tskhinvali, which Tbilisi condemns as part of creeping annexation of its occupied territories, coinciding with the next round of Geneva talks was an attempt by Russia to undermine this negotiating format and also represented a “deliberate insult” of co-chairs of these talks. Georgian chief negotiator, deputy foreign minister, Davit Dondua, however, also said that despite of this provocative act, the Georgian delegation was ready to engage constructively in the next round of talks.
Talks are co-chaired by representatives of the EU, UN and OSCE.
On March 17 they held regular bilateral consultations with the participants of talks in Geneva.
“These consultations showed divergent views on the prevailing situation, including on the planned signing of an agreement between Moscow and Tskhinvali coinciding with this 31st round of the GID [Geneva International Discussions],” the co-chairs said in their joint statement released late on March 17.
“The Co-Chairs appeal to all participants to join the discussions tomorrow in a constructive spirit,” the co-chairs said, who usually do not release statements just ahead of the talks.
The U.S. State Department reiterated in the statement on March 17 its support to the Geneva talks as a mean “to achieving concrete progress on security and humanitarian issues that continue to impact the communities on the ground in Georgia.”
It also said that neither Moscow’s planned treaty with Tskhinvali nor the one signed with Georgia’s another breakaway region of Abkhazia in November, 2014 “constitutes a valid international agreement.”
“The United States’ position on South Ossetia and Abkhazia remains clear: these regions are integral parts of Georgia, and we continue to support Georgia’s independence, its sovereignty, and its territorial integrity,” the Department of State said.
“Russia should fulfill all of its obligations under the 2008 ceasefire agreement, withdraw its forces to pre-conflict positions, reverse its recognition of the Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and provide free access for humanitarian assistance to these regions,” it said.