Each side has different demands for Geneva
By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, December 18
Guarantees of security and the withdrawal of the occupation forces are the main issues the Georgian side will discuss at the third round of international talks in Geneva on December 17 and 18.
The Georgian delegation is represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria and the heads of the legitimate Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities, Malkhaz Akishbaia and Dmitry Sanakoev. Georgian Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze stated that the delegation will draw the attention of the international organizations present to the numerous human rights violations occurring on the territories of Georgia’s breakaway regions.
The Foreign Ministry of Georgia published a statement concerning the situation in Georgia before the Geneva talks, accusing Moscow of using “aggressive rhetoric” against Tbilisi. “The Russian Federation tries to slacken the international community’s attention on Moscow’s non-compliance with its international commitments by developing a myth about aggressive actions allegedly undertaken by the Georgian side. The truth however is that Russia is engaged in building up its military presence on the occupied territories of Georgia, increasing the scale of its ethnic cleansing, interfering with the activity of international monitors and denying them the right of free movement throughout the territory of Georgia.
Russia remains in violation of the President Sarkozy-initiated Peace Plan. Moreover, Moscow uses its own criteria in choosing what is acceptable to do and what not in the conflict zones. A case in point is the deployment of Russian artillery units on the strategic heights in the Gali district and the offensive positions captured by them in the area of Zugdidi. Yet another demonstrable example of Russian arbitrariness is a provocation staged in Perevi, Sachkhere District on 12 December.
Mass and gross violations of human rights continue to be a fact of life on the Russian-occupied territories of Georgia. The Russian Federation, acting in league with its proxy ‘governments,’ has conducted an ethnic cleansing of Georgians in Upper Abkhazia and the Akhalgori district and continues expelling the local population from these territories. As a result, only a total of 200 families out of a former population of 10,000 still live in the Akhalgori district. The population, both Georgian and Ossetian, is being forced to flee the region.
The foregoing provides an added substance to the Georgian side’s argument for the necessity of strengthening international security guarantees and mechanisms. It is our strong belief that the international community taking a consolidated position is the only means of dissuading Russia from putting into action its aggressive designs and bringing it into line with its international commitments,” says the statement.
Moscow officials in their turn accuse Tbilisi of provocations, sometimes “involving President Saakashvili personally, as in the incidence of shooting at the cortege of the Georgian and Polish presidents near the South Ossetian border in November.” According to the official webpage of the Russian Foreign Ministry, “concrete mechanisms which will allow the prevention of provocations from the Georgian side should be discussed at the Geneva meeting.” Moscow also underlined that the question of refugees should be discussed in Geneva, and confirms that all refugees who left Abkhazia and South Ossetia after the early 90s have the right to return to their homes.
Representatives of the separatist authorities of South Ossetia also talk about the “prevention of Georgian provocations.” “The South Ossetian side is going to raise the question of provocations conducted by the Georgian side recently as well as the return of refugees,” stated de facto Deputy Foreign Minster of South Ossetia Alan Pliev, talking to Russian news agency Interfax. The Abkhazian side demands the restoration of the so-called Chuburkhinji meetings - the meetings of the representatives of Georgia and Abkhazia, Russian soldiers and international observers which were conducted before the August conflict in the village of Chuburkhinji in then Gali district. “We consider that these meetings should continue under UN aegis in Gali district, as they will assist in reducing tensions in the Gali and [neighbouring Georgian] Zugdidi districts,” said de facto Abkhazian Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gvinjnia, adding that the title of the UN mission working on Abkhazian territory should be changed. “It can’t be called UN Mission in Georgia anymore,” he stated.
The meetings in Geneva are conducted on the basis of the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement signed in Moscow on August 12 and involve the UN, OSCE, EU, USA, Georgia and Russia. Delegations from the separatist authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia also participate in the meetings, but the Georgian side refuses to recognize them as full participants of the talks.