The Geneva Discussions in Spotlight: Sputnik's Video Bridge Event

Viacheslav Chirikba (left) and Irakli Tuzhba

Former Foreign Minister Viacheslav Chirikba (left) and Deputy Foreign Minister Irakli Tuzhba.

SUKHUM / AQW'A —  On Monday, October 9, the international news agency Sputnik hosted a video bridge encompassing "Sukhum-Tskhinval-Moscow" in commemoration of the 15th anniversary of the Geneva Discussions on the Caucasus. Established in October 2008, following agreements brokered by Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy, the Geneva Discussions serve as an imperative platform for direct dialogue between Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Georgia, promoting security and stability in the Caucasus region.

Essence and Impact

Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, recollected the initial hurdles of 2008 when coaxing Georgian representatives to the negotiation table posed a challenge. Nonetheless, the goal was eventually realised.

According to Viacheslav Chirikba, Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the Presidency of Abkhazia, the Geneva Discussions signified a pivotal moment for Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and the broader South Caucasus landscape. These discussions, he highlighted, provide Abkhazia with a platform for open dialogue with Georgia, granting them a voice on the global stage.

"While anticipating breakthroughs might seem ambitious given the stark contrasts in the stances of the involved parties, dialogue is undeniably preferred over silence. These discussions are not just a venue for conversation but a beacon for building trust, and they offer a vital information and political channel for both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Recognising their significance, I staunchly advocate for the continuity of the Geneva Discussions as a rewarding format in the absence of any alternatives," Chirikba stated.

Elaborating on the practicalities, Konstantin Kochiev, State Advisor to the President of South Ossetia and lead of the working group for the Geneva Discussions, conveyed that their essence extends beyond periodic meetings in Geneva. "They encapsulate ongoing groundwork. Active hotlines, perpetual border dialogues, and swift mechanisms to preempt and address incidents underline the spirit of these discussions. Even during moments of perceived stagnation, these channels remain paramount for timely problem-solving," Kochiev noted.

Highlighting the 2022 pause in the negotiation process, initiated unilaterally by the co-chairs of the Geneva Discussions, Deputy Foreign Minister Irakli Tuzhba underscored that this hiatus was not universally endorsed. Fortunately, through consistent dialogue, representatives from Abkhazia and South Ossetia successfully impressed upon the co-chairs the urgency to resume. With two discussion rounds already conducted in 2023 and another slated for December, Tuzhba remains optimistic about having four full-fledged rounds in 2024, mirroring past frequencies.

Local Security Framework

Deputy Minister Irakli Tuzhba revealed that since 2018, the incident response mechanism, established under the Geneva Discussions, has been inactive. Abkhazia has been ardently striving to reinstate this mechanism, recognising its significance. "We view this as a pivotal structure, an extension of the Geneva process – essentially, a regional security apparatus," Tuzhba articulated. In a bid to revitalise the mechanism in 2021, Abkhazia undertook a unilateral initiative.

"Our sole stipulation pertained to protocols governing state border crossings; specifically, the documentation required for the Georgian delegation to traverse our borders. Regrettably, nearly two years have elapsed with no discernible inclination from Georgia to reengage in the process," lamented Tuzhba.

Elaborating further, Konstantin Kochiev recounted an instance when Georgia was on the cusp of endorsing a non-aggression pact. The document's content was settled, and the Georgian representatives signalled their accord. However, a directive to "halt proceedings" arrived abruptly, mere moments later. "Subsequently, our endeavours to rejuvenate the non-aggression draft have been fruitless," Kochiev expressed.

+ Thirty Years of Peace-negotiations, by Charlotte Hille
+ Interview of the Foreign Minister Viacheslav Chirikba (2015)
+ The EU and the Conflicts in the Eastern Neighborhood: The Case of Abkhazia, by Irakli Khintba

Addressing the Refugee Dilemma

Viacheslav Chirikba asserted that, leveraging the UN General Assembly platform, Georgia covertly seeks to internationally reproach both Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the refugee conundrum, framing them as "internally displaced persons". Chirikba noted that Tbilisi's envoys consistently rally for endorsement of resolutions favouring their stance.

The refugee predicament is concurrently broached within the Geneva Discussions. As elucidated by Tuzhba, a joint resolution by Abkhazia, South Ossetia, and Russia resolved to refrain from engaging in this debate, primarily due to their lack of access to the General Assembly's podium to voice their perspective.

"Georgia's portrayal of the situation to the global audience is significantly skewed, thereby swaying public perception. Over the years, our endeavour has been to level the playing field, enabling us to articulate our solutions to this pressing issue," Tuzhba emphasised.

Meeting Venue

Konstantin Kochiev, the lead representative of the South Ossetian working group for the Geneva Discussions, highlighted that the idea of changing the discussions' venue has been on the table for quite some time. This matter was particularly broached during the coronavirus epidemic when direct flight restrictions made reaching Geneva a challenge.

"Switzerland seems to be taking actions inconsistent with its declared neutral status, especially when imposing sanctions against the Russian Federation and introducing travel restrictions on Russian passport holders. Understandably, these developments raise concerns, making it increasingly complicated for us to get to Geneva," he remarked.

Moreover, Kochiev asserted that both Abkhazia and South Ossetia will remain firm in their positions and continue to advocate for their interests, regardless of the discussions' location.

Right to Sovereignty

Last week, in an interview with "Izvestia," President Aslan Bzhania announced plans for establishing a permanent base for the Russian naval fleet in the Ochamchira district. Vladimir Dzhabarov, First Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council Committee on International Affairs, posited that Abkhazia, akin to any sovereign nation, possesses the right to configure its security as it deems fit.

"The eventual recognition of these two sovereign states is inevitable, and in due time, they will assume their rightful positions within the United Nations Organisation. Although obstacles and potential blocks are anticipated, a lot hinges on the outcomes of specific military operations," he stated. Dzhabarov further assured that Russia will stand by its allies, safeguarding their interests.

Emphasising the profound respect Russia holds for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Dzhabarov commented, "Ours isn't a 'big brother-little brother' relationship. We regard you as equal partners, and I firmly believe both nations will make significant strides, flourishing in alliance with the Russian populace."




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