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Georgia ready to sign non-aggression agreement

By Temuri Kiguradze
Thursday, July 2
The Georgian side announced its readiness to sign a non-aggression agreement with Russia at discussions in Geneva which finished on July 1.

Giga Bokeria, the Deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, who leads the Georgian delegation in Geneva, announced that Tbilisi is ready to sign a non-aggression pact with Russia directly. Bokeria also underlined that the document could be signed as soon as Russia agrees to withdraw its troops from the Georgian separatist regions and replace them with international police forces. “We have presented our way to ensure the stabilisation of the situation in Georgia, and this includes the withdrawal of the Russian occupation forces from the conflict zone. Unfortunately however Russia is quite far from accepting these conditions at present,” said Bokeria, speaking after the meeting.

Tbilisi refused to accept a Russian proposal to sign non-aggression agreements with the separatist authorities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “In these conditions the need for the conclusion of binding documents on the non-use of force between Georgia, the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of South Ossetia is acquiring even greater significance. The international community must have firm guarantees that the terrible tragedy of last August does not recur in the Transcaucasian region,” a Russian Foreign Ministry statement published on June 29 had said.

Commenting on Bokeria’s proposal the representative of the South Ossetian de facto regime at Geneva discussions, Boris Chochiev, called it “cynical.” Speaking to journalists Chochiev also noted that he is “sure that Georgia is preparing for another war now.” Speaking after the end of the Geneva negotiations head of the Russian delegation Grigory Karasin stated that Russia is “pleased” with the results of the meeting. He also noted that the sides discussed the question of a change to the format of the talks, because the UN and OSCE don’t have missions in Georgia anymore and that fact should be “considered.” “The situation in the region is very dangerous after the withdrawal of the OSCE and UN missions. Now we are talking about ways to provide security and stability in the region. The participants of the Geneva discussions have the possibility of doing this,” stated the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister as quoted by Russian news agency RIA-Novosti on July 1. “We are finishing these discussions on a positive and constructive note,” concluded Karasin, adding that the next, seventh, round of the talks is scheduled for September 17.

The sixth round of the talks was the shortest to date, lasting one day only. “The topics of discussion are quite narrow and the positions of the sides are quite clear, that’s why only one day has been given to the negotiations. It seems that none of the sides hopes to reach a compromise because they know the position of Russia. It is also possible that after the restoration of the military partnership between Russia and NATO, whose main goal is Afghanistan, the sides have decided to postpone the issue of Georgia. That’s why in the nearest future the Geneva discussions are doomed,” stated one of the participants of the negotiations, as quoted by the Russian Kommersant newspaper.

The Geneva talks were established after the August Russian-Georgian war to fulfil one of the conditions of the EU-mediated ceasefire agreement signed by the parties to the conflict. They involve representatives of Georgia, Russia, the separatist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and mediators from international organisations. The only result of the previous five meetings has been the creation of an incident prevention mechanism in South Ossetia that should provide the basis for negotiations between Georgia and the de facto South Ossetian authorities which will resolve and prevent problems in the conflict zone. However only one such meeting has been conducted, due to the refusal of the South Ossetian side to continue these talks in their existing format. At the July 1 meeting the sides managed to agree to implement the incident prevention mechanism in breakaway Abkhazia, and meetings will be conducted concerning this in the Gali district of Abkhazia which is mainly populated by ethnic Georgians.

Just two days before the discussions began Russia launched the Kavkaz 2009 military exercises near the Russian-Georgian border and in Abkhazia and South Ossetia – territories that Tbilisi regards as Georgian territory occupied by Russian troops. The Kremlin announced that the exercises will “consider the experience gained during the August conflict” in Georgia. Kavkaz 2009 involves more than 8,500 soldiers and hundreds of military hardware units. These drills drew sharp protest from the Georgian Government, which called them a “dangerous provocation,” and noted that the drills were being conducted in a situation where no international observers are present in the Georgian conflict regions. The July 1Geneva talks, were the first since Russia blocked the extension of UN and OSCE missions in Georgia, leaving Abkhazia and South Ossetia without any kind of international monitoring.