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Geneva talks on Caucasus end in deadlock

RT -- Yet another round of Geneva talks on security and stability in the Caucasus following the August 2008 conflict has brought no result. The parties failed to come to a compromise over a document on non-use of force.

Delegations from Russia, Georgia, South Ossetia, and Abkhazia under the mediation of the EU, the UN, the OSCE and the US met in Geneva on Tuesday for the eleventh round of talks that have been held regularly since the end of the war launched by Georgia against South Ossetia in 2008. Since then Geneva has been the main venue for the conflicting sides to try to find a compromise and bring peace and stability to the region.

However, the June 8 negotiations ended with no breakthrough. The eleventh round of talks was held in two working groups – on security and on the humanitarian situation – both of which failed. In protest at their opinion being ignored – as they state – Tskhinval’s and Sukhum’s delegations walked out of the negotiations room.

US wrecks the talks

The major stumbling block was a treaty that would guarantee non-use of force by Georgia against Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Delegates in the security group did not manage to come to a compromise on the issue since positions of the parties are too different.

“The Georgian side has been doing its best to escape this question with the help of US representatives and even the co-chairmen of the Geneva process – representatives of the EU, the UN and the OSCE,” Vyacheslav Chirikba, Abkhaz president's envoy, told Interfax agency.

Echoing his words, the South Ossetian representative said, “Just as it had been expected, the Georgian side and its satellites have started to more openly express their opinion that, supposedly, with the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreements, there is no need for this draft.”

“Representatives of [Georgian president] Saakashvili’s regime were supported by US Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon,” said Boris Chochiyev, South Ossetian Presidential Envoy on Post-Conflict Regulation. Meanwhile, he went on, “a supplement voicing the need to work out a legally binding document which guarantees the non-use of force was added to the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement on September 8, 2008,” he added as quoted by the South Ossetian state information agency.

However, the US side, says that the August 12, 2008, ceasefire agreement between Georgian President Saakashvili and Russian President Medvedev, mediated by French leader Sarkozy, “already establishes the sides’ commitment to the non-use of force.”

“Full implementation of that agreement – which we still await from the Russian Federation – would render an additional agreement unnecessary,” US delegation to Geneva statement reads. Washington would rather have Geneva talks result in “regular meetings of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) and unfettered access for humanitarian assistance to conflict areas.”

According to Tskhinval’s representative, though, the US “contributes to Geneva talks to be buried.”

“The Americans say: What for would you sign the treaty? Better let us carry out humanitarian operations,” Chochiyev told RIA Novosti in a phone interview. Meanwhile, what is important for South Ossetia, he said, is that Mikhail Saakashvili, with the support of the US, would not attack the republic again.

Tskhinval, Sukhum want more security guarantees

Moscow, for its part, maintains that the Medvedev-Sarkozy agreement is not enough to make sure the republics can feel safe in the future. A solution would be a non-aggression treaty between Georgia, South Ossetia and Abkhazia which could significantly improve the situation in the region.

However, the issue of the status of the republics hampers the process of talks on the issue. The point is that Tbilisi does not recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, and therefore refuses to sign any international deals with them. At the same time it does not rule out signing a non-use of force agreement with Russia.

“We should find a way out of this situation, otherwise it can keep going on like this for 30-40 years,” Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin told Itar-Tass.

The official reminded that Moscow elaborated a concept of a unilateral declaration which would oblige Georgia not to use force against Tskhinval and Sukhum.

Georgia is now pointing the finger at Moscow for the deadlock in the Geneva talks. According to Tbilisi, it was because of the “unconstructive position” of Russia and “its proxy regimes” that participants were unable to come to a compromise.

According to the country’s foreign ministry statement, the Georgian side “as well as other participants of the discussions expressed particular concern” over the statement of Karasin, “who put under question the existence of the August 12 ceasefire agreement and the obligations stemming from this document.”

“This statement once again demonstrates that Russia is trying to avoid its international legal obligations vis-à-vis Georgia and the whole international community,” the statement reads as published on the ministry’s official website.

Following the Tuesday talks, Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria stressed that Tbilisi would never sign the disputed agreement with the republics, which it views as its occupied territories. It would be ready, though, to sign such an accord with Russia if it includes “a point demanding the withdrawal of Russian forces from the occupied territories.

The talks of the working group on humanitarian issues brought no result either.

“Since the opinion of South Ossetia and Abkhazia was not taken into account, our delegations walked out of the hall,” said Chochiyev, the South Ossetian representative.

Russia recognized the independence of the republics following Georgia’s attack on South Ossetia in August 2008. Since then the states have been recognized by Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru.

The 12th round of talks in Geneva is scheduled for July 27, 2010.

Source: Russia Today

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