On 22-23 March, Geneva hosted another round of international discussions on the South Caucasus that involved representatives of the Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, the United States and the Republic of South Ossetia. UN, OSCE and EU representatives co-chaired the meeting. State Secretary, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin headed the Russian delegation.
On the whole, the discussions took place in a constructive working atmosphere. The participants noted that the regional situation remained calm and stable. The 10 March trilateral prisoner exchange became an important indicator of cooperation between Sukhum, Tbilisi and Tskhinval.
The Abkhazian and Georgian sides reached a principled agreement on reactivating a joint accident prevention and rapid response mechanism in the border-line city of Gal in the Republic of Abkhazia. The mechanism has not functioned since April 2012. A similar format continues to function effectively on the border between the Republic of South Ossetia and Georgia, making it possible to quickly resolve current incidents without any politicisation and to resolve cooperation issues at the local level. The participants noted the uninterrupted operation of hotline networks in border areas.
The sides implement joint projects in the area of environmental protection, archive transfers and irrigation. They continue to maintain a dialogue on the search for missing persons, and work to rebury Georgian citizens killed during the former Georgian-Abkhazian continues.
The sides underscored with satisfaction the absence of major incidents, a decrease in crime statistics in border zones and acceptable freedom of movement levels, especially for school students.
Against this backdrop, we are concerned about continued provocations on the Georgian-South Ossetian border, such as deliberate damage to warning information signs, artificial obstacles and unauthorised incursions by Georgian citizens and EU Mission observers into South Ossetia. Tskhinval representatives once again warned Tbilisi about the negative consequences of these incidents and reminded it of the need to unwaveringly honour inter-state border regimes; and this also concerns the local population.
Representatives of Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia expressed concern about the expanding military cooperation between Georgia and NATO. Considering Tbilisi’s continued claims to the territories of both independent republics, Sukhum and Tskhinval are rightfully concerned about the increased offensive potential of the Georgian army and an increase in the number of joint Georgia-NATO military exercises. This undermines multilateral efforts to stabilise the situation in the South Caucasus. The South Ossetian side also expressed alarm in connection with reports that terrorists for ISIS are being trained in the Pankisi Gorge.
While discussing the non-use of force in the region, most participants, including co-chairpersons, called for the approval of a brief joint statement in Geneva on this issue as the first step towards legally binding agreements between Abkhazia, Georgia and South Ossetia. However, Georgian representatives once again shied away from coordinating this document.
The Abkhazian, Russian and South Ossetian sides noted the counter-productive nature of the so-called reports on the “human rights situation in occupied territories” that are being regularly submitted by Georgia to international organisations. Tbilisi’s continued efforts to push through the UN General Assembly its annual politicised resolution on refugees hamper the discussion of these issues in Geneva. The Republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia stated that they would continue to demand that their representatives take part in examining this issue in New York City, so as to provide the international community with objective information on the humanitarian situation in their respective states.
The next round of Geneva discussions is scheduled for mid-June 2016.
24 March 2016