Negotiators in Geneva talks, which were launched after the August 2008 war, failed again to make a progress on joint statement on non-use of force during the recent, twenty sixth, round of discussions on December 18.
Talks, known as Geneva International Discussions, are co-chaired by representatives from EU, UN and OSCE and involve negotiators, or as they are formally called “participants”, from Georgia, Russia and the United States, as well as from Sokhumi and Tskhinvali.
After the previous, twenty fifth, round of talks on November 6, it was announced by the co-chairs that the participants agreed to continue working on the text of joint statement on non-use of force with the view to adopt the statement “in the near future.” No such reference was made in the co-chairs’ statement after the recent round on December 18; instead it said that the participants agreed to continue working on the issue.
Although Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Zalkaliani, said that discussions on the draft statement were held in “business-like environment”, he added the meeting demonstrated “existing gap” between the participants’ positions. He also said that the Georgian participants presented “number of comments” to the draft text.
Georgia’s position is that the joint statement should not in any way be considered as a substitute for Russia to reciprocate Georgia’s unilateral non-use of force pledge made in November 2010 and then reiterated through a parliamentary resolution in March, 2013.
The Georgian side seems to be even linking progress on the joint statement with the need for Russia to reciprocate. Zalkaliani said that Russia’s refusal to reciprocate makes work on the text of joint statement devoid of sense and “leads the process towards the impasse.”
Russia refuses to reciprocate, citing that it is not a party into the conflict and instead is calling for a binding non-use of force treaties between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, as well as between Tbilisi and Sokhumi, or at least to adopt in frames of the Geneva discussion a joint statement of participants that would “reiterate key principles of non-use of force.”
“On the key issue – non-use of force – all of our joint efforts with Abkhazians and South Ossetians to adopt at least a joint statement on the level of participants of the Geneva [discussions]… encountered again opposition from the Georgian participants,” Russia’s chief negotiator in Geneva talks, Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, said after the recent round.
Geneva talks are held in the format of two working groups with the first one discussing security-related issues and the second one – humanitarian issues.
According to the Georgian negotiators they have raised the issue of “alarming humanitarian situation” on the ground and negative consequences brought upon local population by placement of fences and obstacles across the administrative boundary lines of the breakaway regions. Zalkaliani said that that after fencing activities were renewed last month by the Russian troops, total length of fences across breakaway South Ossetian administrative border reached 50 kilometers.
Co-chairs of the Geneva talks noted in their statement after the recent round of talks about “prevailing relative calm and stable situation. They also noted about “adverse effects” of continued deployment of fences and other obstacles at different locations along the administrative boundary lines.
The U.S. said in a statement after the recent round of Geneva talks: “We welcomed the recent absence of violence along the administrative boundary lines but reaffirmed our view that the physical barriers installed along them negatively impact Georgia’s territorial integrity as well as the lives and livelihoods of adjacent populations, and called for these barriers to be removed.”
Next round of the Geneva talks will be held on March 25-26, 2014.