The 54th round of the Geneva International Discussions was held on 13 October 2021. The main issues of the discussions included the release of the illegally detained Georgian citizens, de-facto annexation process of Georgia’s occupied territories and solution of humanitarian problems on the ground.
During the negotiations, the Georgian delegation raised Moscow’s recently accelerated steps towards de-facto annexation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, including the implementation of the so-called programme on creation of a common socio-economic space, and signing of so-called treaty on dual citizenship. In this light, the particular emphasis was placed on Moscow’s attempts to illegally seize a part of the village Aibgha, and to delineate and demarcate unilaterally the Georgia-Russia state border on the segments of the occupied territories. The Georgian participants underlined that holding of the Russian Parliamentary Elections in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and voting for the majoritarian MPs in the Russian State Duma clearly demonstrates the ongoing process of de-facto annexation of the Georgian regions by Russia.
One of the main topics of the discussion was Russia's non-compliance with the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement, namely: the intensified militarization of the occupied territories, illegal military exercises and violations of Georgia’s airspace, as well as the installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers along the occupation line by Russian FSB personnel. The Georgian representatives stated that Moscow's illegal statements on the so-called delimitation and demarcation of the occupation line are completely unacceptable, and the only solution to the issue is the de-occupation of Georgia’s territories. During the negotiations, particular attention was devoted to the process of creeping occupation near the village Chorchana, which creates a risk for escalation on the ground.
The head of the Georgian delegation stressed that by carrying out a large-scale military aggression in August 2008, as well as through ongoing provocations and hybrid warfare tools over the past 13 years, Moscow has been deliberately trying to destabilize the situation in the country, hinder Georgia's democratic development and its European and Euro-Atlantic integration. Lasha Darsalia stated that Moscow's destructive actions against Georgia constitute gross violations of the fundamental norms and principles of international law, which has been attested by the international court. He stressed that the European Court of Human Rights legally established the fact of Russia's occupation and effective control over Georgia’s territories, and found Moscow responsible for human rights violations on the ground.
The Georgian representatives highlighted the need for execution of justice in the cases of murder of Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili, and once again raised the issue of the death of Irakli Kvaratskhelia at the Russian military base in the Abkhazia region.
The Georgian participants provided a detailed overview of the security challenges for the local population and their difficult humanitarian conditions, which have been further exacerbated due to the illegal process of the so-called "borderization", restriction of freedom of movement and various discriminatory measures. Special focus was made on the practice of illegal detentions and kidnappings of Georgian citizens. The Co-Chairs along with the representatives of Georgia and the US stressed the need for unconditional release of Irakli Bebua and the rest of the illegally detained Georgian citizens, and emphasized the necessity of solving the issue through the humanitarian approach.
During the negotiations, the necessity of entry of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and its operation throughout the whole territory of Georgia, in accordance with its mandate, was raised.
It was highlighted that the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, which has been suspended for the last 3 years, needs to be restored unconditionally with respect of the founding principles and ground rules.
The special emphasize was placed on grave consequences of the lengthy closure of the occupation line in the Tskhinvali region and the subsequent isolation of the Akhalgori district, which has forced the local population to leave their own houses and caused the district to be emptied. The Co-Chairs along with the Georgian representatives noted the resumption of movement across the Enguri bridge, and underlined the need for unconditional opening of the so-called crossing points in both occupied regions.
Extensive discussions were held on the grave human rights situation and ethnic discrimination against Georgians in the occupied territories, including their forceful registration as “foreigners”, prohibition of education in native language in schools and kindergartens, as well as the violations of property rights. In this context, the need to protect the fundamental rights and freedoms of the people living in the Gali district and Kodori gorge was emphasized.
During the negotiations, the Georgian representatives focused on the challenges of the conflict-affected population amid the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, and emphasized the need for unimpeded access to healthcare services as well as proper functioning of medical evacuation across the occupation line.
The Georgian participants discussed the severe conditions of the monuments of cultural heritage in the occupied territories, and raised the issue of their intentional damage and destruction.
The Georgian delegation underlined the necessity of strengthening the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda within the Geneva International Discussions, namely, the need for increasing women’s meaningful engagement as well as adopting a gender-sensitive approach in order to ensure an inclusive peace process.
Broad discussion was held on the key issues of the agenda, such as the non-use of force and international security arrangements. The Georgian participants underlined that Georgia has reaffirmed numerous times its commitment to the non-use of force and remains in full compliance with this pledge, while Russia continues using force and threat of force against the Georgian side. Against this background, the head of the Georgian delegation stressed that Russia must affirm and implement the non-use of force commitment vis-à-vis Georgia. According to Lasha Darsalia, the only guarantee for ensuring lasting peace and security on the ground is the fulfilment of the 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement by Russia, withdrawal of the occupation forces from Georgia’s territory, and deployment of international security mechanisms in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
Due to the destructive position of Russia and its occupation regimes, the discussion was not held on one of the main issues of the agenda – the safe and dignified return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees, forcibly expelled from their homes as a result of ethnic cleansing. As soon as the agenda item was opened, the participants from Moscow, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali tried to politicize the issue and walked out of the negotiations.
Prior to the Geneva International Discussions, bilateral consultations with the Co-Chairs and the Co-Moderators were held. Also, the follow-up discussion took place on the topic of the Information Session “Comprehensive/Human Dimension of Security”, which was held at the previous Round. During the current Information Session, the discussion was focused on the issues of safety, needs and rights of the conflict-affected people.
The next round of the Geneva International Discussions will take place on 7-8 December, 2021.
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.