On May 17, the Georgian Foreign Ministry summoned the European Union Ambassador Janos Herman over the remarks made by the EU South Caucasus Special Representative Herbert Salber in Tskhinvali the previous day.
Herbert Salber, who co-chairs the Geneva International Discussions (GID) on behalf of the European Union, visited Tskhinvali along with the GID co-chairs from the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), to prepare the upcoming talks on June 20-21.
During his meeting with Tskhinvali authorities on May 16, Salber congratulated the region’s new leader Anatoly Bibilov on winning the April 9 presidential polls.
“First of all, let me congratulate you on the results of the election, which was held here not long ago, and congratulate you on assuming the position, on assuming the important position, which you have now,” Salber told Bibilov.
Georgia’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs David Dondua reacted to Salber’s statements by saying that “what we have heard from the EU Special Representative and Geneva co-chair is, to put it mildly, unacceptable and unclear.”
“This goes against the principles of international law and does not contribute to the efforts of both Georgia and the international community to solve the conflict peacefully. We are in touch with the EU leadership and hope that this will be followed by an adequate reaction from Brussels,” Dondua said after the meeting with EU Ambassador Janos Herman.
On his part, Ambassador Herman said he “would like now to reiterate with clarity” that the European Union “does not recognize the framework, in which this so called election took place in the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia.” Herman stated that if such framework is not recognized, “it is logical to add that, therefore, we do not recognize the results of that either,” and added that what EU “firmly supports,” is the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Georgia.
Dondua confirmed that “EU’s firm position and support to Georgia’s territorial integrity, sovereignty and the Georgian government’s peace policy” was voiced at his meeting with Ambassador Herman and added that “the European Union was one of the first to react to and condemn the provocative step by the Russian Federation on the territory of Georgia when the so called election and the so called referendum was held in Tskhinvali Region.”
Non-Use of Force Statement
In Tskhinvali, Salber also spoke about the work on the non-use of force document at the Geneva talks, emphasizing that “the non-use of force issue is very important for security in the region.” According to Salber, the final objective is to conclude a legally binding document on the issue, but at the first stage he hoped to adopt “a short text,” which would give an impetus to “further works.”
Dondua commented on the matter as well. Speaking after his meeting with Ambassador Herman, the Deputy Foreign Minister said that “a lot of work has been done” in Geneva since 2012 on the joint statement on non-use of force, and that lately the positions of the sides in the talks have gotten “somewhat closer to each other,” but added that “fundamental differences in the participants’ approaches” remain, which “does not permit [us] to speak about any serious progress.”