A Georgian negotiator noted “relatively positive” development after the nineteenth round of Geneva talks on March 29 expressing hope that discussions would lead to the point when Moscow reciprocates to Tbilisi’s unilateral non-use of force pledge. A Russian negotiator, however, reaffirmed Moscow’s long-standing position on the issue reiterating that Russia will not make such pledge.
“We have to note that this particular round was relatively positive, because we have a feeling that we are moving to the right direction and that the discussions we are having here in Geneva will bring us to the point when the non-use of force pledge will be made including by Moscow,” Sergi Kapanadze, Georgia’s Deputy Foreign Minister, said at a news conference in Geneva after the talks.
Kapanadze said that “concrete ideas” were discussed during the talks and expressed hope that those concrete proposals “will get us closer to the point when everyone” would make non-use of force pledge. He did not elaborate details of those “concrete ideas”.
Georgia has already made unilateral non-use of pledge in late 2010 and is now, as Kapanadze put it, “in waiting mode for Moscow to reciprocate.”
Russian chief negotiator in Geneva talks, Deputy Foreign Minister Gregory Karasin, said that “during the discussions representatives of the Georgian delegation again started demanding Russia’s unilateral declaration of non-use of force.”
Karasin told Itar-Tass news agency on March 29, that such a demand was unacceptable for Russia from “principle point of view” because Russia “does not consider itself to be a party into the conflict.”
Russia instead is pushing, as it calls it, a binding non-use of force agreement between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, as well as between Tbilisi and Sokhumi in which Moscow, together with the U.S. and the EU, will act as a guarantor – something that is strongly unacceptable for Tbilisi.
Geneva talks, launched after the August, 2008 war, are co-chaired by representatives from the EU, OSCE and UN and involve negotiators from Georgia, Russia, the United States, as well as participants from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.
Non-use of force, coupled with international security arrangements – a setting that should guarantee non-use of force, is one of the key topics discussed during the talks.
“Unfortunately we still do not have progress on international security arrangements,” Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergi Kapanadze, said after the talks.
“It remains our goal to see international peacekeeping and police missions in these regions [Abkhazia, South Ossetia], because we think that the best way to ensure the non-use of force pledge... is through this kind of international presence and that strong UN, OSCE or the European Union-mandated peacekeepers and police forces can be the best guarantee for the security and stability,” Kapanadze added.
Philippe Lefort, EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus, who is a co-chair of Geneva talks, said the discussions were moving ahead “slowly, sometimes with great difficulty.” He also said that although results after each round of talks were perhaps not really “spectacular”, the situation now was better then immediately after the August war.
In a joint statement after the talks, co-chairs said the participants “welcomed the relatively stable environment, despite an increase of the number of violent incidents” along the administrative boundary line of breakaway Abkhazia.
The Georgian negotiator said he had raised the issue of Russia’s planned large-scale military exercises Kavkaz-2012. It was reported that Russia was planning to also involve in the drills Abkhaz and South Ossetian military units and Tbilisi said it had information that Russia also wanted to involve in the drills its troops stationed in the two breakaway regions, as well as forces stationed in the Russian military base in Gyumri, Armenia.
Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Sergi Kapanadze, said that during the nineteenth round of Geneva talks the Georgian side received “some encouraging clarifications” from the Russian negotiators about the planned military drills. He said the Georgian side was told by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin that Russia was “not going to involve the Russian troops located outside the Russian Federation” in the planned military exercises.
“This is rather encouraging,” Kapanadze said. “If this statement by Mr. Karasin is confirmed by the Russian Ministry of Defense and if the facts on the ground correspond to this statement then we would say that this is a positive development.”
The next, twentieth round of Geneva talks are planned for June 7-8, 2012.