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Sixteenth Round of Geneva Talks
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 8 Jun.'11 / 01:33

Tbilisi has warned it would not participate in the next round of Geneva talks in October if Russia "continues terrorist attempts", Georgian negotiators said after the sixteenth round of talks on June 7.

"The Georgian side has sent a very clear message to Russia and to our international partners [mediators of the Geneva discussions], that if terrorist attempts continue, Georgia will cease its participation in the Geneva talks," Shota Utiashvili, a senior official from interior ministry and one of the Georgian negotiators at the Geneva talks, told RFE/RL Georgian service.

 "It is impossible to speak seriously with a party, which constantly thinks about how to plot a terrorist act against you," he said after the sixteenth round of talks.

Georgian chief negotiator and secretary of National Security Council, Giga Bokeria, said after the meeting in Geneva that he could not foresee any talks "with the state party sponsoring state terrorism."

 

The Georgian Interior Ministry announced on June 2, that it had arrested in western Georgia two residents of Gali district - a man and a woman, who were instructed by Abkhaz-based Russian security officer to place an explosive in a market.

On June 6, when negotiators were already in Geneva, the Georgian Interior Ministry announced about the arrest of a man, who, it said, was intending to place an explosive outside NATO liaison office in Tbilisi in exchange of USD 2,000 offered by a Russian officer based in South Ossetia.

"There have been two terrorist attempts in recent week. How long can we rely on unprofessionalism of the Russian special services and on our good luck? Series of these [terrorist attempts] should stop - there is nothing more important right now," Utiashvili, who is the head of information and analytical department at the interior ministry, said.

The EU, OSCE and UN-mediated talks, involving negotiators from Tbilisi, Moscow, Washington, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, were launched in Geneva two months after the August, 2008 war.

Mediators from EU, OSCE and UN said in a brief joint statement after the sixteenth round of talks that the participants of the sixteenth round of the meeting assessed situation on the ground "as stable, but  unpredictable, with a potential for dangerous escalation due to highly worrying developments and incidents."

The mediators, or co-chairs as they are formally called, underlined the need for "renewed  bilateral and collective efforts between participants in order to deescalate tension."

Apart of what Georgia says were "terrorist attempts" a period between fifteenth and sixteenth rounds of Geneva talks saw two major incidents on the ground - one in early April, when a Russian FSB's border guard serviceman and two Georgians were killed in a shootout in Gali and another one in May when two Georgian civilians were wounded in a shooting at the South Ossetian administrative border.

"Such levels of casualties after two-and-a-half years of work are kind of a warning signal," Pierre Morel, co-chair of the discussions from EU, said.

Antti Turunen, co-chair from the UN, said that the sixteenth round of discussions had focused on the security situation in the region, "especially on reported incidents of a potentially terrorist nature."

Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, told Russia's news agency RIA Novosti after the sixteenth round of talks that Georgia's allegations about Russian security officers being behind alleged terrorist attempts were part of Tbilisi's "exercises in information-propaganda work."

"But at the same time we said that if the Georgian side has serious facts, figures and information, we are ready to consider these facts and study them and to give our comments like we have already did several months ago," Grigory Karasin said.

He was referring to Georgia's separate allegations that Russian military officer based in Abkhazia was behind series of explosions in Tbilisi last autumn. Georgia said that despite handing over evidence to Russia the latter not only showed no sign of cooperation to resolve those cases, but further continued to plot new terrorist acts.

Karasin also said he was sure, that "domestic political difficulties, which the present regime in Tbilisi is experiencing" was the reason of Georgia's allegations against Russia.

He said it was "an attempt to consolidate society on a quite provocative basis - anti-Russian sentiments."

"[Tbilisi] tries to portray situation as if Russia is to blame for all the misfortunes both external and internal ones," Karasin said.

The Geneva discussions are held in two working groups with the first one discussing security-related issues and the second one - humanitarian issues. There seems to be no progress in the second working group either.

Giedrius Čekuolis, OSCE Lithuanian chairmanship's special representative, called all parties "to urgently improve conditions" for people affected by the August 2008 war.

Čekuolis expressed concern about the difficulty the local residents across the administrative borders of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia face to move freely. He also called for the release of detained local residents without delay.

He also underlined the failure to restore gas to the affected communities as “one of the biggest challenges which negatively affect the daily life of the local population" in Akhalgori district of breakaway South Ossetia.

"Schools cannot be properly heated during the long winter and sanitation conditions in homes are poor," Čekuolis said. "I see no excuse for denying basic utilities to those affected by the conflict."

Georgia shut down gas supply to the Akhalgori district in South Ossetia, which was under Tbilisi's control before the August war, as it does not want the gas it would provide to end up in the hands of Russian troops stationed in the region.

In a joint statement after the meeting, mediators said that the participants agreed to hold the next, seventeenth round of talks four months later, on October 4 - the longest interval between two rounds of Geneva talks.

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