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TWENTY-SIXTH ROUND OF GENEVA INTERNATIONAL DISCUSSIONS CONCLUDES
18 December 2013

The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions gave a press conference this afternoon at the end of the twenty-sixth round of the Discussions.

PHILIPPE LEFORT, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, said that Geneva International Discussions had just completed their twenty-sixth round. He also announced that Ambassador Deshchytsia of Ukraine would conclude his role as Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Chairperson-in-Office for Conflicts as his country, Ukraine, was going to complete its Chairmanship at the end of the year; Mr. Lefort welcomed the incoming OSCE Special Representative for the South Caucasus 2014, Ambassador Angelo Gnaedinger of Switzerland.

Mr. Lefort read out the joint press communiqué by the co-Chairs. In Working Group I, the participants had started their discussions with a review of the security situation on the ground. In that regard, the co-Chairs appreciated the prevailing relative calm and stable situation despite the continued deployment of fences and other obstacles at different locations along the Administrative Boundary lines. The co-Chairs regretted the adverse effects of those developments and called upon all participants to ensure that those were duly addressed, including within the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM).

The participants had once again reviewed the work done in the IPRM framework. They had reiterated the need to resume the Gali IPRM meetings and had welcomed the constructive work done within the Ergneti IPRM. They had positively assessed the constructive and business-like engagement of the experts in the drafting session on the joint draft statement of the participants of the Geneva International Discussions on non-use of force. It had been agreed that the work on that topic would continue during the following session.

In Working Group II, the participants had reviewed the humanitarian situation on the ground. They had reiterated their concern about the humanitarian consequences of the developments that affected the daily life of the local population along the Administrative Boundary lines. They had also exchanged views on ways to address the issues related to the freedom of movement, healthcare, education and missing persons.

The participants had agreed to hold the following session on 25-26 March 2014.

ANTTI TURUNEN, United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions and the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, said that the twenty-sixth round had been held in a business-like and constructive manner.

While there had been several kidnappings by organized groups in the Gali district, these had not had a negative effect on the general security situation on the ground. The hotline communications had been effectively used by participants as required.
The overall freedom of movement at the dedicated crossing points had remained satisfactory, and the humanitarian access of international organizations had also been respected. Nonetheless, some issues remained to be followed up at a few designated crossing points, which were of concern to some school children. Those issues were to be addressed with local authorities in the future. Discussions on the freedom of movement also had to be continued with the view of finding practical solutions to day-to-day problems.

Mr. Turunen also expressed his appreciation for the work of Mr. Deshchytsia and welcomed the incoming OSCE Special Representative, Mr. Gnaedinger.

ANDRII DESHCHYTSIA, Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairperson-in-Office for Conflicts, joined the other co-Chairs’ assessment of the twenty-sixth round as constructive.

Since the previous round of the Geneva discussions, the situation along the South Ossetian Administrative Boundary line could be characterized as generally calm and stable. There had been two IPRM meetings, held in constructive atmosphere. Hotline communications had indeed been used regularly and in good effect. However, the issue of fencing activity remained on the agenda, including in the framework of the Ergneti IPRM. During the year, Mr. Deshchytsia had visited a number of villages where fences had been erected and had an impact on the lives of local communities. He had appealed to all IPRM participants to work together to identify pragmatic local solutions that could alleviate unnecessary hardships experienced by the locals.

The OSCE-implemented water projects on both sides of the dividing line – Nikozi, Zonkari, and Znauri were nearly completed. There was still work to be done on modalities for the implementation of the rehabilitation of the Tiriphoni irrigation channel, because local residents continued to suffer from the lack of irrigation water.

Missing persons was another major issue of concern, and there were some interim results to report. The reopened investigation into the fate of three missing Ossetian youngsters was ongoing. The previous week, the OSCE and European Union Monitoring Mission had facilitated a meeting between Georgia’s Prosecutor Office representatives and relatives and potential witnesses.

Mr. Deshchytsia used the opportunity to thank his colleagues, the co-Chairs, as well as his team for their cooperation and support. He welcomed his successor, Mr. Gnaedinger, to this challenging post, wished him all the best, and reaffirmed his readiness to assist in the future if needed.