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ICG calls Tbilisi and Moscow for talks

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, August 10
Amid the tense statements of the Russian authorities on the third anniversary of the August 2008 Russia-Georgia conflict, International Crisis Group has called on the sides to start talks.

“To take advantage of any opportunities and begin the long process to normalize ties, Moscow and Tbilisi should: engage in direct talks, without preconditions, on a range of subjects, with mediation, if needed, by a mutually acceptable third party,” the International Crisis Group latest briefing reads “This should complement, not substitute for, the existing Geneva process and de-escalate rhetoric about bombings and support for terrorism and agree to joint investigations or ones carried out by third parties,” it continues.

In order to improve security in and around Abkhazia and South Ossetia the ICG has recommended international community to “continue to press Moscow to withdraw to positions held before the 2008 conflict, facilitate the return home of displaced persons and allowed the EUMM full access to South Ossetia and Abkhazia and encourage the parties to exchange information on their security forces and their movements in the areas near administrative border lines.”

According to the ICG, while formal diplomatic relations remain suspended “many mutual interests remain” between Tbilisi and Moscow. “Georgia and Russia share interests in improving mutual security, trade and transport,” Crisis Group’s Caucasus Project Director, Lawrence Sheets said “They should agree to start discussions on these issues and any other areas of concern without preconditions,” he added.

The ICG named Russian-Georgian talks over Russia’s World Trade Organisation membership and the energy agreements as a “positive example” of dialogue. “Political discourse and media in Russia and Georgia are preoccupied with the bitter relationship, but dialogue is needed to restore stability in a fragile region where both countries would benefit from working together to meet common security and economic challenges,” Director of Crisis Group’s Europe Programme, Sabine Freizer said.

ICG suggested Georgia should refrain from “responding nervously” to the allegations of “every Russian politician” and Russian officials from “making unsubstantiated and provocative allegations without firm evidence.”

Key international actors need to send a “strong message” to Tbilisi and Moscow that direct talks are “urgently needed,” the ICG said. According to the organization, while the political discourse and media in both countries are “preoccupied with the bitter relationship,” it is time for the sides to talk to each other “more over a negotiating table, whether directly or with the aid of a third party, rater than trade allegations about each other in press or parliament.”