On December 13-14, Geneva hosted another round of international discussions on the South Caucasus. The meetings included representatives from the Republic of Abkhazia, Georgia, the Russian Federation, the United States and the Republic of South Ossetia. The discussions were co-chaired by the United Nations, the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and the European Union. State Secretary, Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin headed the Russian delegation.
The agenda focused on the participants’ statement on the non-use of force. Unfortunately, the Georgian side once again blocked the document’s neutral status-quo version that was eventually suggested by the co-chairs. Tbilisi again tried to impose wording about “international security mechanisms” for the intrusive monitoring of the situation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The parties agreed to re-examine this issue in the next round.
Meeting participants noted unanimously that the situation on the borders between Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Georgia was mostly stable. Despite certain incidents, people living in the border areas can move about freely. This is indicated by statistics: Since early 2016, over one million people have crossed the border between Abkhazia and Georgia, with 350,000 people crossing the border between South Ossetia and Georgia. Regular mutual contact between the parties using the hotline network makes it possible to quickly resolve arising problems and to provide additional information.
The delegations from Abkhazia and South Ossetia noted continued unfriendly actions by Tbilisi at various international venues in the absence of representatives from Sukhum and Tskhinval. The purely propagandistic Georgian initiatives at the UN, the OSCE and the Council of Europe have no practical value for the regional population. At the same time, politically-motivated Georgian statements complicate the atmosphere during discussions in the Geneva format.
Representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia once again noted the mendacious nature of reports about the human rights situation in the “occupied territories” being circulated by the Georgian Foreign Ministry and the obviously biased nature of another report by the Secretary General of the Council of Europe.
The South Ossetian delegation especially underscored the unacceptability of the distorted Georgian media coverage of illegal crossings of the republic’s state border and the arrest of violators by border guards, with Georgia interpreting these incidents as kidnappings for ransom. These reports are false.
Representatives of Sukhum and Tskhinval stressed that Tbilisi continues to hamper international communications between the residents of both independent republics, and that it has been trying to thwart any attempts of the emergent states to provide the international community with objective information about themselves and the circumstances leading to their declaration of independence.
The delegations from Abkhazia, Russia and South Ossetia once again voiced serious concern in connection with unceasing NATO military exercises in Georgia that has hosted three such exercises since early 2016.
The parties to the Geneva discussions confirmed their willingness to continue searching for ways to resolve humanitarian issues. They noted a number of positive reciprocal moves to address specific tasks during the search for missing persons, in the area of archive exchanges, environmental protection, preservation of cultural heritage and freedom of movement.
The parties focused on native-language education. The Abkhazian and South Ossetian delegations noted problems with providing education in those Georgian regions where large communities of their compatriots live. A briefing involving international experts and dealing with native-language education in a multi-ethnic environment was held at the proposal of the co-chairs.
Once again, Georgia’s “human rights” initiatives at international venues made it impossible for the humanitarian group to discuss the issue of refugees.
The next Geneva meeting is scheduled for late March 2017.