Another round of consultations on security and stability in the South Caucasus took place in Geneva, Switzerland, on December 12−13. The Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Republic of South Ossetia, the Russian Federation and the United States took part in the consultations co-chaired by the EU, the OSCE, and the UN. The Russian delegation was led by State Secretary and Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin.
The delegations from Abkhazia and Russia noted that efforts by the Georgian Embassy to Great Britain to dismantle a monument in Kilmarnock to the residents of Sukhumi – victims of the 1992−1993 war − ran counter to Tbilisi’s statements on its willingness to promote reconciliation with its “brothers from Abkhazia and Ossetia.” Russia pointed out that the attempt to erase the memory of Sukhumi residents who lost their lives back then was an ignominious and profane act. This is in stark contrast to Abkhazia’s commitment to assist in all possible ways with the reburial of the remains of Georgian soldiers.
Representatives from Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia highlighted the calamitous decision by the US Department of State to approve the possible sale of Javelin shoulder-fired anti-tank missiles to Georgia. This could be the largest military deal between Washington and Tbilisi since 2008, pushing Georgia to new and dangerous military undertakings.
In this context, Abkhazia and South Ossetia confirmed that they viewed Russia’s assistance in the defence sector as justified and timely. Once again, Georgia blocked the approval of a draft statement by the participants in the discussions on the non-use of force, even though other delegations suggested a number of alternatives. It was agreed that the groups would work further on this matter.
Other than Georgia, all the participants in the Geneva discussions agreed that the situation on the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-South Ossetian borders were stable and predictable. The existing checkpoints have been able to handle the increasing cross-border movement of people and vehicles. The number of incidents on the Georgian-Abkhazian border has dropped significantly over the last year.
During the consultations, representatives from Tskhinval circulated a detailed timeline of Georgia’s anti-Ossetian policy, beginning in the 18th century. Abkhazia presented a paper criticising Tbilisi’s revanchist ambitions, and describing steps by Abkhazia and Russia to implement all the provisions under the 2008 Dmitry Medvedev-Nicholas Sarkozy agreements.
The participants in the Geneva discussions reaffirmed their willingness to build on the emerging positive developments on humanitarian matters. During the last reporting period, the sides held a successful prisoner exchange which was made possible by their good will and refusal to make a political issue out of it. They agreed to remain engaged with the stakeholders on the protection of cultural heritage and searching for missing persons.
The next meeting in Geneva is scheduled for March 2018.