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Russia-Georgia Geneva Talks Unlikely to Make Progress

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, October 4
On October 4 a round of Geneva talks will take place. This process started in 2008 after the August war and the Russian occupation of Georgia. So far, 16 rounds have been held without any significant result. The sides have radically different positions and neither is prepared to make any concessions.

Many mediators, such as the US, UN, EU and OSCE, will be present. There are only two sides to the talks according to the initial regulations - these are Georgian and Russian – however, Russia also tries to present itself as a mediator and calls Abkhazia and South Ossetia a side counterbalancing Georgia. The Kremlin declared these breakaway regions of Georgia independent entities and recognized them and now wants the international community to follow in its steps. The major issue that creates deadlock is Moscow’s demand that Georgia signs an agreement with Sukhumi and Tskhinvali – the capitals of the breakaway regions – on non resumption of military hostilities. Some believe that if this were to happen it would be tacit Georgian recognition of these entities as equal judicial subjects. This would eventually lead to the acceptance of independence and sovereignty of these artificial units. The Georgian leadership from the very beginning fixed their position - they are ready to sign such an agreement between Georgia and the Russian Federation. Moreover, Saakashvili has stated publicly in a European parliamentary session and from the UN podium that Georgia would never use force to regulate conflicts on its territory.

From the same podium in the same recent session of the UN General Assembly, Russian FM Lavrov stated that Russia is ready to be a guarantor between Georgia and its rebel regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia of any possible agreement on the non-use of force. This is absolutely unacceptable from the Georgian side which points to the fact that Russia has already proved itself to be a deliberately ineffective and biased peacekeeper in the same regions since 1994.

Tbilisi argues that the peacekeeper status of Russia was used by the latter for the annexation of Georgian territories and its aggression in August 2008. A statement of the Georgian parliament clearly says that the conflicts in the post-Soviet space were triggered by Moscow. Moreover, Moscow is not fulfilling its major obligations laid out in the August 12, 2008 agreement which envisages the withdrawal of Russian occupation forces from Georgian territory to pre-August war positions. Moscow fires back that since the territories declared their independence and since the Kremlin recognizes them they are not Georgian territories any more and the Russians may carry out intensive military armament and deploy Russian armed forces there.

Another issue that will be raised during the Geneva talks is the return of IDPs to their territories and original homes. However, here also the Russian inspired-separatists refuse to acknowledge the Georgian side's position.

It is unlikely that this 17th round of talks will yield any significant results; instead the only positive decision will be to set up the dates of the 18th round. Of course, the process should still continue because this is the only place where the Russian and Georgian sides sit and discuss issues face to face. Even holding a dialogue without any results is better than not holding any at all.