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26th round of Geneva Talks over

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, December 20
The security situation in the conflict regions of Georgia, the non-use of force agreement, and humanitarian issues was discussed at the 26th round of Geneva Talks held on December 17-18. The parties agreed to continue to work on a draft of the non-use of force agreement. However, the documents still could not be adopted.

Georgian officials have intensively worked on the agreement of the non-use of force in the conflict areas, in order to have the document ready for the talks. However, the parties failed to agree due to the differences on the details of the agreement.

"We began discussing the agreement, although there is no significant progress in that direction," the deputy Foreign Minister of Georgia, Davit Zalkaniani, said after the talks.

Zalkaniani once again reiterated at the meeting that Georgia intends to conclude an agreement on the non-use of force with Russia. Regrettably, the Russian delegation and the delegations from the break-away regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia still continue to insist on signing the agreement between Tbilisi and Sukhumi and between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali.

The Russian Foreign Ministry puts blame on Georgia. In the official statement published by the Ministry, it is said that the agreement on the non-use of force failed due to the Georgian delegation’s position.

“The document was blocked once again as the Georgian party was not prepared for it,” the statement says.

The co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions gave a press conference after the two-day talks. They summarized the work done by the two separate working groups created within the framework of the Geneva talks.

Philippe Lefort, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, announced that the co-Chairs “appreciated the prevailing relative calm and stable situation despite the continued deployment of fences and other obstacles at different locations along the Administrative Boundary lines. The co-Chairs regretted the adverse effects of those developments and called upon all participants to ensure that those were duly addressed, including within the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM).”

He also announced that the participants of the talks agreed on the necessity to resume the Gali IPRM meetings and welcomed the constructive work done within the Ergneti IPRM.

“In Working Group II, the participants had reviewed the humanitarian situation on the ground. They had reiterated their concern about the humanitarian consequences of the developments that affected the daily life of the local population along the Administrative Boundary lines. They had also exchanged views on ways to address the issues related to freedom of movement, healthcare, education and missing persons.”

Antti Turunen, United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions and the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, said the talks of this round were held "in a business-like and constructive manner", and participants once again demonstrated their commitment to the Geneva discussions.

He stated that the overall freedom of movement at the dedicated crossing points remains satisfactory. Also international organizations are able to have humanitarian access into the conflict zones.

At the press-conference, the co-chairs of the Geneva talks expressed their satisfaction due to the fact that despite a large number of problematic issues, the situation along the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary line could still be characterized as generally calm and stable.

The 26th round of the Geneva Talks has not brought any particular results to the conflict resolution process. However, the Georgian side is going to maintain the format of the talks.

Zalkaliani reiterated at the meeting that Georgia is ready to continue their engagement in the working process (on the non-use of force). He also stressed the need to revive discussions in relation with the creation of international security arrangements.

The next round of the talks was scheduled on March 25-26, 2014.