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Sides fail to agree at Geneva talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, June 10
The 11th round of Geneva talks ended with no result on June 8. After hours-long negotiations in Switzerland the Georgian, Russian and de facto Tskhinvali and Sokhumi regimes delegations failed to agree on any action on any security and humanitarian issues, including the signing of a non-use of force document and the resolving of problems of movement across the administrative borders.

The de facto Sokhumi and Tskhinvali delegations said that the Geneva negotiations are in “crisis”, adding that there is “no sense” in continuing the talks unless a non-use of force document is signed between Tbilisi, Tskhinvali and Sokhumi. The head of the Moscow delegation, Russian Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, also stressed the importance of signing such a document, saying that “there should be a really effective document which will calm down the Abkhazians and the Ossetians.” He added that in the existing six-point ceasefire agreement there is no exact explanation of how non-use of force should be implemented and what kind of guarantees the sides will receive.

Tbilisi will “never sign” a non-use of force document with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, head of the Georgian delegation Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria said. Georgia suggests that non-use of force is already a component of the 6-point agreement signed on August 12, 2008. “The ceasefire agreement of 2008 includes very clear obligations on the non-use of force and the withdrawal of Russian troops from Georgia,” Bokeria told journalists after the negotiations. Officials in Tbilisi say that such an agreement can only be signed between Georgia and Russia.

The US delegation backed the position of the Georgian side, saying that the Sarkozy-mediated agreement “already establishes the sides’ commitment to the non-use of force.” In a special statement released after the negotiations the US delegation said “full implementation of that agreement – which we still await from the Russian Federation - would render an additional agreement unnecessary. The United States believes another non-use of force agreement among the relevant parties, including the Russian Federation, could improve the situation on the ground provided it meets the concerns of all parties, includes meaningful implementation measures and avoids the unnecessary politicisation of the status issue. We hope that future rounds of the Geneva discussions will focus on completing implementation of the August 12 Commitments, including the provision of unfettered access for humanitarian assistance, to which the Russian Federation committed itself in the August 12 ceasefire agreement.”

Meanwhile the de facto Abkhazian and South Ossetian authorities have said they will draw up a joint communique to express their “discontent” over the 11th round of Geneva talks. Asked if this would mean that the 12th round might not take place, head of the Sokhumi delegation Vyacheslav Chirikba said “nothing can be excluded.” “The positions of the sides are too far apart from each other, the organisers of the negotiations are themselves hindering the drawing up of a non-use of force document, so nothing can be excluded,” Chirikba noted. “We will talk about this issue with the co-Chairs of the Geneva talks when they visit Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali later,” he added.

Some analysts suggest that despite the problems reaching any agreement the negotiations should continue. “The most hostile conflicts are usually resolved through negotiations,” analyst in conflict issues Malkhaz Chemia told The Messenger. “The first issue is to achieve security guarantees for the local population in the conflict zones, the second is to ensure that monitoring of the situation in Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region can be carried out,” Chemia said. “Russia has blocked the OSCE monitors from entering the conflict zones, so Georgia and the EU should try to achieve an agreement on their readmission to these territories. The third issue is to restore trust between the sides. The level of cooperation between Tskhinvali and Tbilisi was much higher ten years ago. Several joint projects, mediated by the European Council, were being carried out in Java. So action should be taken to restore trust,” he said.

The sides agreed to hold the next round of talks in late July.