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41st Round of Geneva Int’l Talks focuses on problems in Georgia’s occupied regions

By Tea Mariamidze
Friday, October 13
Ethnic cleansing against Georgians left in the occupied regions, and the destructive actions of Russia in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia were the top issues raised by the Georgian side at the 41st round of Geneva International Discussions on October 10-11.

As usual, the talks were co-chaired by representatives from the European Union (EU), the United Nations (UN) and the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe (OSCE), as well as delegates from Georgia, Russia, the United States (US), and de facto authorities from the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.

Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs (MFA) reports that Georgian participants discussed the difficult situation created in the occupied regions of Georgia in terms of security, human rights and humanitarian grounds.

They also raised the issue of destroying houses in the local Georgians in Eredvi village, Occupied Tskhinvali. The Georgian side assessed the action as the continuation of ethnic cleansing of Georgians and a deliberate attempt to destroy Georgian traces within the territory.

One of the main topics of the agenda was the ethnic discrimination in the Gali district, breakaway Abkhazia. Discussion focused on registration of the local Georgian residents as foreigners, adding some Georgians were made to change Georgian surnames and ethnic identity. Georgian representatives stressed the facts represent neglecting fundamental rights of the local residents.

The participants shared their assessments on the case of murder of an unarmed Georgian civilian, Giga Otkhozoria, along the ABL by so-called border guard Rashid Kanji-Oghli on 19 May 2016. Georgian participants called for the reopening of the case to ensure that justice is served, because the de facto authorities of Abkhazia have dropped charges against the killer.

All sides had intense discussions on a number of issues relating to crossings, travel opportunities, documentation, missing persons, mother tongue-based multilingual education, cultural heritage and environmental concerns.

The parties also discussed detentions along the dividing lines, access to farmland, and exchange of information on military activities.

Special attention was paid to Russia's failure to comply with the August 12, 2008 ceasefire agreement. The emphasis was put on strengthening the Russian militarization process and military exercises in both the occupied regions of Georgia.

However, given long-standing divergent positions, it was again impossible to conduct a discussion on issues relating to IDPs/refugees returning to their home’s, because the representatives of Russia and De facto authorities left the discussions in protest, as per usual.

The next meeting will be held on December 12-13, 2017.

Since the Russia-Georgia war in August 2008, the Geneva International Discussions have been the only format of dialogue between Georgia and Russia.

The Discussions are usually held within a two meeting-group format. At one meeting, the sides discussed security and stability issues in Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, while the second meeting discusses the safe return of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) and refugees to their homes.