The 43rd round of Geneva International Discussions (GID) - the multilateral mediation forum to address security and humanitarian consequences of the Russo-Georgian War of August 2008 - was held on March 27-28.
The GID are co-chaired by the representatives of the OSCE, EU and UN, and involve 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.
Positions taken: Georgia
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement regarding the March 27-28 negotiations, saying the main discussion points were “the arbitrary deprivation of Archil Tatunashvili’s life,” and the establishment of international security mechanisms in line with the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement.
The Georgian MFA stressed in its statement that the “torture and murder” of Archil Tatunashvili was a result of the “inaction of the Russian Federation and its occupation regimes” on the cases of Giga Otkhozoria and Davit Basharuli, which “encouraged violence against ethnic Georgians.”
“The Georgian side laid full responsibility on the Russian Federation on the matter, as the country exercising effective control in the occupied regions,” the Ministry said, calling on Moscow to refrain from creating any obstacles to the ongoing investigation.
The Foreign Ministry also noted “an intensive discussion” took place on the non-use of force declaration (NUF), with Tbilisi representatives stressing that the declaration should have served “a concrete purpose, namely the start of the implementation process of the ceasefire agreement.”
According to the MFA statement, participants from Georgia and the United States underlined the need for Russia to commit and fulfil the non-use of force obligation, but the Russian side demonstrated its “destructive approach,” and “drew the talks to a deadlock with their intentionally provocative statements.”
The Ministry also said “a detailed discussion” was held on security, humanitarian and human rights situation in the occupied territories. Here, Tbilisi representatives expressed their concern regarding “continued militarization of the occupied regions,” and “steps towards their factual annexation by the Russian Federation.”
The MFA added that ethnic discrimination of Georgians residing in the two regions was stressed during the talks, including registration of the Gali Georgians “as foreigners” and violation of their fundamental rights and freedoms, destruction of the homes of the Georgians, and restriction of the Georgian-language education for children in Gali and Akhalgori districts.
Positions taken: Russia, Tskhinvali, Sokhumi
The March 28 statement of the Russian Foreign Ministry (MID) said the Georgian diplomats “turned the meeting into a publicity event, contrary to Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s reassuring statement of March 9 on his country’s resolve to make progress at the talks in Geneva.”
The Ministry stressed Georgia’s pedaling of “the alleged Russian occupation” and its attempts to “shift the blame for their own inability to normalize relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia onto Russia,” were “futile.”
“Instead, Georgia should start thinking about ways to restore trust in relations with its neighbors, launch a direct dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia based on mutual respect, stop encouraging other countries to deny visas to these republics’ residents, abolish the Law on Occupied Territories, and stop hindering the republics’ cultural and humanitarian events abroad,” the MID statement reads.
The Russian Foreign Ministry touched upon the non-use of force declaration as well, saying it was “regrettable” that the participants failed to “coordinate” the draft statement. “This time, the U.S. delegates proposed unacceptable wording characterizing the August 2008 events,” the Ministry said, pointing out that Russia had no unfulfilled commitments with respect to the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement.
The Russian Foreign Ministry also expressed its concern regarding Georgia’s cooperation with NATO and criticized the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM) for its “violations of Abkhazia’s and South Ossetia’s state borders.”
The March 29 statements of the Russian-backed authorities in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali echoed Moscow’s messages.
The Abkhaz “foreign ministry” stressed that the joint non-use of force statement, which “could have served as an important step on the road to signing a legally binding non-use of force agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia and Georgia and South Ossetia,” was not adopted at the 43rd round of discussions, since “this time, the American wording characterizing the August 2008 events was unacceptable.”
The Tskhinvali “foreign ministry” repeated that the non-use of force statement “could have become a constructive step on the road to developing a document, which would guarantee the security of South Ossetia and Abkhazia from Georgia.” “Representatives of the American delegation proposed knowingly unacceptable changes, which went against the format and the spirit of the Geneva discussions, and [with that] annulled the confidence-building efforts of many months,” it said.
Positions taken: the United States
The United States Mission to Geneva said in its press statement that the GID delegation condemned “the tragic death of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili,” and called “for a full and transparent investigation.”
“The United States cited the tragic death as the most recent example underscoring the immediate need for international mechanisms to improve security and stability on the ground,” reads their statement.
The U.S. GID delegation also noted that there was “no agreement” on a non-use of force statement, and that it regrets participants were unable to discuss the issue of the internally displaced persons because of Russia’s walk-out.
GID Co-chair Assessments
The GID co-chairs issued their own press communiqué, assessing the overall security situation on the ground “as relatively calm and stable,” but reiterating their “strong concern over the tragic death of Georgian citizen Archil Tatunashvili.”
Here, the co-chairs emphasized “the need to address properly this and similar cases to avoid repetition and raising tensions,” and called for “a thorough investigation into the case and for cooperation among relevant stakeholders.”
The GID co-chairs then noted that despite “intensive engagement” by all participants, “it did not prove possible to finalize the draft joint statement on non-use of force.” The co-chairs said to continue their consultations in this regard.
The press communiqué also said that “unfortunately, it was again impossible to complete discussion of all agenda items given long-standing divergent approaches to the issue of IDPs/refugees.”
The next round of the GID is scheduled for June.