The 40th round of Geneva International Discussions (GID) was held on June 20-21. The GID is a multilateral mediation forum co-chaired by the EU, OSCE and UN, which was created after the Russo-Georgian War of 2008 to address security and humanitarian issues. It involves representatives from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as members of both the Georgian exiled administrations of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali Region/South Ossetia and the two regions’ Russian-backed authorities.
Two working groups – on security and on humanitarian issues – met in their usual format.
According to the Georgian Foreign Ministry (MFA), Georgian representatives brought up “stage-by-stage integration” of the two regions in “Russia’s military, political, economic and humanitarian space,” including “the so-called referendum in Tskhinvali Region and signing of the so-called agreement on integration of the local armed groups into the military forces of the Russian Federation.” They also accused Russia of ongoing violation of the 2008 “ceasefire agreement” implying the removal of the Russian troops from the two regions.
The Georgian representatives said that against such background it was particularly important for Russia to commit to non-use of force.
Another issue brought up by the Georgian side was restriction of movement and detentions on the occupation line. Georgian representatives, were especially incensed by Tskhinvali participants at the Ergneti Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) announcing the buildup of additional barbed wire barriers in villages of Avlevi, Orchosani and Tsitelubani. The Georgian participants reportedly demanded the international mediators to undertake preventive action regarding the “borderisation” of the Administrative Boundary Line (ABL).
The Georgian participants also drew attention to restriction of instruction in Georgian language. Such restrictions were already applied in Gali district of Abkhazia and was announced in Akhalgori district of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia. Both districts are home to the majority of ethnic Georgians that still reside in the two regions.
The statement of Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said its diplomats have condemned “political aggressiveness of Georgia”, especially stressing the recent UN General Assembly resolution on the Georgian refugees, as well as the documents adopted by the UN Human Rights Council and the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers.
The Russian side also expressed “serious concern regarding deepening cooperation of Georgia with the NATO.” The MID statement says the NATO Parliamentary Assembly declaration, adopted on May 29 during its session in Tbilisi, “again demonstrated stereotypical and one-sided attitudes” of the NATO.
The Russian statement says that “such military-political situation has highlighted again the importance of discussing the project of a joint statement by the Geneva discussion participants regarding non-use of force, as the first real step towards signing bilateral agreements on this issue between Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the one side and Georgia from the other.”
Tskhinvali and Sokhumi representatives’ comments echoed the MID’s messages. In a joint statement, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi attacked the UN General Assembly resolution on the refugees and demanded “legally binding agreement on non-use of force, and in due course – peace treaty between Georgia from the one side and republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia from the other.”
The U.S. delegation at the talks condemned the Sokhumi authorities’ decision to drop the criminal prosecution of the suspect in the killing of Georgian citizen Giga Otkhozoria that took place on May 19, 2016, adding that “this decision had the potential to undermine the GID.” The U.S. representatives also condemned restrictions on freedom of movement for the local residents across both Administrative Boundary Lines “in violation of Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity within its internationally recognized borders.”
The U.S. “encouraged the parties to continue constructive negotiations aimed to achieve a mutually agreeable statement on the non-use of force,” and expressed regret regarding failure to discuss the issue of internally displaced persons. The latter resulted from a walk-out of the Russian delegation and Sokhumi and Tskhinvali representatives when the discussions participants reached this point of the agenda.
The GID Co-Chairs also called for the reopening of the case of Giga Otkhozoria’s murder and continuation of work on a non-use of force statement
The next round of the Geneva International Discussions is scheduled for October 10-11, 2017.