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Sides to raise traditional issues at Geneva talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Friday, March 4
The agenda of the 15th round of Geneva talks taking place on Monday is similar to the previous one with the sides insisting on signing a non-use of force agreement: Tbilisi wants it signed between Georgia and Russia, while the de facto authorities and the Kremlin demand that such document be signed between Tbilisi and Sukhumi and Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.

The Georgian delegation left for Switzerland yesterday morning. Before departure the delegation members outlined the issues the Georgian side is going to raise at the talks, including the signing of a non-use of force document. “Speaking at the European Parliament the Georgian President pledged not to use force and is now waiting for a response from Russia,” Deputy Foreign Minister Sergi Kapanadze said.

Another issue, which has become a traditional discussion subject at the Geneva talks, is the deployment of international monitors in Georgia’s breakaway regions. “It means establishing international security mechanisms in Tskhinvali region and Abkhazia. First of all, we mean peacekeeping and police forces, but on the first stage it should start by deploying monitors on these territories,” the Deputy Minister stated, adding that safe and dignified return of the IDPs to their homes will also be discussed at the negotiations table in Switzerland. “We expect that the Russian Federation will take some steps to start this process. The process has been hindered by Moscow’s inhuman and stiff policy and now we expect that this policy will change,” he noted.

De facto South Ossetia and Abkhazia have also laid out their agenda, naming signing of a “legally binding” non-use of force document with Tbilisi as a top priority. “It is very important to convince Georgia that it is necessary to sign a legally binding document on non-use of force with Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” head of the de facto Abkhazian Delegation to Geneva, Vyacheslav Chirikba said “only after this will we be able to start working on more specific issues in terms of resolving the conflict,” he added. Chirikba accused Tbilisi of “aggressive rhetoric”, saying that signing a document on non-use of force will be a “guarantee for peace.”

De facto South Ossetian Special Representative in Post Conflict Regulation issues, Boris Chochiev told journalists ahead of the 15th round of Geneva negotiations that Tskhinvali will “toughly raise” the issue of a legally binding non-use of force document. “After 2.5 years of Geneva talks there is no progress in working out a draft document,” information agency Osinform quoted him as saying. He reiterated the claims of the de facto Tskhinvali authorities, that the co-chairs of Geneva talks are taking a “weak position.” “They [the co-chairs] are content with different kinds of ‘successes’, which are not so meaningful for South Ossetia,” Chochiev stated.

The previous round of Geneva talks was held on December 20 and ended up with Tbilisi accusing Moscow of adopting an “unconstructive” position over the Georgian President’s peace initiative. When summarizing the results of the 14th round of talks in Switzerland, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said the Kremlin largely ignored Saakashvili’s pledge. “Despite the fact that the whole civilized world has been encouraging the country to make adequate steps, Russia had been absolutely unconstructive towards this issue at the Geneva talks. The Russian Government feels as if this step was not at all addressed to them thus is not worth their relevant reactions. On the contrary, they are doing their best to strengthen the attempts for legitimizing their authority on the so-called occupied territories by removing the occupation line deeper in Georgia,” Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze said.