The 49th round of the Geneva International Discussions was held on 8-9 October 2019. During the negotiations, destructive and provocative actions of the occupation forces taking place on the territory controlled by the Georgian Government, namely in the vicinity of the village of Chorchana, as well as severe humanitarian consequences of closure of so-called crossing points in Tskhinvali region were raised with particular emphasis. The Co-Chairs and the US representatives noted that illegal processes on the above territory first occurred in January of this year, when the occupation forces started marking the trees in Chorchana forest and the so-called “borderization” process. Against the backdrop of the aggravated circumstances on the ground, the representatives of Georgia emphasized the importance of de-escalation of the situation, and underlined the necessity that Russia ceases unconditionally its destructive actions and continues dialogue within the existing negotiation formats.
The Georgian participants extensively discussed the dire security and humanitarian consequences stemming from the occupation and factual annexation process of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions. They paid particular attention to the illegal militarization and military exercises taking place on the ground. The continuous process of erection of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the occupation line was sharply raised. In this context, special emphasis was placed on the provocative steps of the occupation forces in the village of Gugutiantkari, which resulted in loss of access of several local families to their houses and farmlands. The cases of illegal detentions and kidnappings of people along the occupation line was discussed as another factor of destabilizing the situation.
The fragile security environment on the ground was comprehensively reviewed by the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM), which highlighted Russia’s non-compliance with the obligations undertaken by the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, whereas Georgia has fully implemented all provisions of the Agreement.
Particular emphasis was made on gross violations of fundamental rights and freedoms of the population affected by the Russia-Georgia conflict. In this regard, the responsibility of the Russian Federation, as the power exercising effective control over the occupied territories, was underscored. The representatives of Georgia strongly raised the issue of closure of the occupation line in Tskhinvali region for an uncertain period, which continuous to have the grave humanitarian impact for the local population.
Artificial restrictions imposed on freedom of movement across the occupation line in Abkhazia region during the period of June-September were also emphasized. The Co-Chairs and the representatives of the USA and Georgia called upon the participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali to re-open all so-called crossing points and not to impede free movement of the local population.
One of the key topics of the discussions was the ethnic discrimination and oppression of the residents of Gali and Akhalgori districts. The issue of coercion of local Georgians to change their ethnic identity, as well as the severe consequences of prohibition of education in native language were sharply raised. The participants from Tbilisi highlighted the attempts of erasing Georgian traces in the occupied territories, including the cynical decision to build a landfill in the areas of Georgian settlements in the village of Eredvi.
The representatives of Georgia once again stressed the necessity of execution of justice with regard to the cases of murder of David Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili. The issue of death of another Georgian citizen - Irakli Kvaratskhelia at Russian military base illegally stationed in the occupied Abkhazia region was also discussed.
Considering the existing security challenges on the ground, the Co-Chairs and representatives of the USA and Georgia emphasized the urgent need for immediate resumption of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs) Gali and Ergneti, without any preconditions, and in full respect of the founding principles and ground rules.
The non-use of force and international security arrangements were one of the core issues of the Agenda, traditionally. The representatives of Georgia called upon the Russian Federation to affirm and implement the non-use of force commitment, since Russia continues using force against Georgia through its illegal military presence in Georgia’s occupied territories. In this context, the Georgian participants emphasized the urgent need for full and unconditional implementation of the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement by Russia, namely the withdrawal of Russian military forces from Georgia’s territory, and establishment of international security mechanisms on the ground.
One of the most significant topics of the discussions was the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons and refugees, who have been forcibly expelled from Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions of Georgia, as a result of ethnic cleansing. The representatives of the EU, UN, OSCE, the US and Georgia extensively talked on the necessity of substantial discussions and reaching tangible results on this humanitarian issue within the Geneva format. However, the participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali once again demonstrated their irresponsible attitude and walked out of the negotiations, while discussing this important topic of the Agenda.
The information session on „Public health: best practices for managing communicable diseases” was held prior to the negotiations. The presentation of the invited international experts once again demonstrated the absurdity of the closure of the occupational line in winter of this year, using the artificial pretext of preventing the spread of influenza.
The next round of Geneva International Discussions will be held on 10-11 December 2019.
The Geneva International Discussions were launched on the basis of the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement. The discussions are held within the frames of two Working Groups, where participants are represented in their individual capacity. In the first Working Group talks are focused on security and stability in the occupied territories of Georgia, while in second Working Group – on humanitarian and human rights situation in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, as well as on the issues related to safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees to the places of their origin. The discussions are held with Co-Chairmanship of the EU, UN and OSCE, and participation of Georgia, the Russian Federation and the USA. The Head of the Provisional Administration of the former South Ossetian Autonomous District and the Chairman of the Government of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia, as well as the representatives of the Sokhumi and Tskhinvali occupation regimes also attend the Working Groups.
October 10, 2019