Sokhumi and Tbilisi have agreed at the Geneva International Discussions to resume work of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) in Gali, which was suspended four years ago after the Abkhaz side refused to participate.
The 35th round of the Geneva talks, which were launched after the August 2008 war, was held on March 23.
The talks include negotiators from Georgia, Russia, the U.S., as well as representatives from breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia; talks are co-chaired by EU, OSCE and UN envoys.
IPRM was established in frames of the Geneva talks with the purpose of addressing security concerns and developments on the ground on regular basis. While on the South Ossetian direction IPRM meetings, co-facilitated by EU Monitoring Mission (EUMM) and OSCE, involving officials from Tbilisi, Tskhinvali, as well as representatives of the Russian troops on the ground, are held on the regular basis (it was only suspended for some time in 2010), such meetings on the Abkhaz direction in Gali are suspended since April, 2012. Initially the Abkhaz side was refusing to participate after denouncing then head of the EUMM as “undesirable person on the Abkhaz territory”; but IPRM Gali meetings were not resumed even after then EUMM head’s two-year tenure came to an end in summer 2013.
After the 35th round of the Geneva talks, co-chairs said “during the meeting, the participants reached an important agreement on the resumption of the work of the Gali / Gal Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM).”
The Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “an agreement in principle has been achieved as a result of lengthy consultations and efforts” to resume work of the Gali IPRM meetings, which was assessed by the co-chairs and the participants as a “positive” development.
“After a break of four years, resumption of this mechanism is a serious step forward to provide for security on the ground, which also will contribute significantly to the protection of fundamental rights of local population,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said.
Breakaway Abkhazia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that “an agreement on resumption of IPRM mechanism… was a positive result of negotiations between the Abkhaz and Georgian sides” in frames of the Geneva International Discussions.
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, Russian chief negotiator in the Geneva talks, also welcomed the agreement as “extremely significant event.”
The U.S. delegation in the Geneva talks said in a statement that it “welcomes the agreement by the Georgian and Abkhaz participants to restart the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.”
Special Representative of the OSCE Chairmanship Gernot Erler welcomed the agreement to resume Gali IPRM meetings as “a major step to increase confidence, predictability and transparency” and called for holding of the meeting “at the earliest possible convenience.”
Participants and co-chairs of the Geneva talks also welcomed swap of prisoners between Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali that took place on March 10.
Co-chairs said that during the 35th round of the Geneva talks, “the participants assessed the security situation on the ground as relatively calm and stable” and also discussed “issues related to freedom of movement and travel abroad, as well as the humanitarian situation, including missing persons, education, cultural heritage and environmental issues.”
Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, said that the 35th round of talks was held in “rather constructive atmosphere”, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a written statement on March 24 that during the 35th round of the talks, “representatives from Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia have expressed concern over increasing defense cooperation between Georgia and NATO.”
“In the view of Tbilisi’s continued claims on territories of the both independent republics, strengthening of offensive potential of the Georgian army and increased number of joint Georgian-NATO military exercises triggers justified concerns in Sokhumi and Tskhinval and undermines multilateral efforts towards stabilization of situation in the Transcaucasus,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
Among the issues regularly raised during the Geneva talks are non-use of force and international security arrangement, as well as return of refugees, on which the participants are failing to make progress for a long time already.
“The co-chairs welcomed the exchanges of views that took place on non-use of force,” EU, OSCE and UN envoys said in their joint statement after the meeting.
The next round of Geneva talks have been scheduled for June 14-15.