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28th round of Geneva Talks takes place

By Ana Robakidze
Friday, June 20
The 28th round of Geneva Talks which took place on June 18th was disrupted when representatives of breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia decided to leave the negotiations room and walk away from Working Group II, which had to deal with humanitarian issues in the conflict regions. They protested the existence of the issues of displaced persons and refugees on the agenda.

Influenced by the Russian side, the representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia protested against the UN resolution from June 5th, which supports the return of IDPs to their homes. They blamed the Georgian government for politicizing the issue, participants from the breakaway regions said that they see no reason to discuss IDP related topics within the framework of the Geneva Talks.

According to Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Davit Zalkaliani, after walking away from the Working Group II, participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali tried to join Working Group I, which addresses security-related issues. However, the international co-chairs of the committee refused to accept any changes in the format.

Addressing participants, Angelo Gnadinger, the OSCE Chairmanship’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus and one of the co-chairs of the talks called on the parties to maintain constructive dialogue, to move beyond their established positions, and to listen and learn from each other.

“This group is charged with reaching agreement on issues that affect the quality of life of people on both sides of the dividing lines…It is regrettable that the participants have not been able to make the most of this opportunity.” Gnadinger said.

Speaking at the press conference after the talks, the co-chairs of the Geneva International Discussions – Ambassador Gnadinger, EU Special Representative Herbert Salber and UN Representative Antti Turunen appreciated the satisfactory overall calm and stable situation.

Herbert Salber stated that the participants began a discussion on the security situation on the ground and reviewed the work done in the IPRM (Incident, Prevention and Response Mechanism) framework in Working Group I.

The co-chairs deeply regretted the disruption of Working Group II due to disagreements on certain agenda points among participants. They reiterated that the topics discussed within Working Group II were purely humanitarian and did not have to be politicized and immediately engaged bilaterally with all participants in order to find ways to resume the session in the Working Group.

According to UN representative Turunen, the Co-Chairs are not satisfied with the disruption of Working Group II and they will travel to the region again soon in an attempt to overcome difficulties, especially those seen in Working Group II concerning internally displaced persons and refugees.

The United States representatives, who also participated in the 28th Round of the talks said in an official statement that the discussions are a vital tool in our efforts to reduce tensions, address humanitarian needs, and implement the commitments made in the 2008 ceasefire agreement and the decision by the South Ossetian and Abkhaz participants to cut short their participation in the working group on humanitarian affairs ran counter to these goals, damaged efforts to resolve these issues through dialogue, and brought this round of discussions to an abrupt conclusion.

The parties agreed to hold the next round of talks on October 7-8.