26 June 2013
The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions gave a press conference this afternoon at the end of the twenty-fourth 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 have just concluded their twenty-fourth round and read out the joint press communiqué by the co-Chairs.
In Working Group I the participants reviewed the security situation on the ground. Referring to the latest developments on the ground, the Co-Chairs found it regrettable that fences had been erected and trenches dug at different locations along the Administrative Boundary Lines (ABL). Those developments had reportedly affected the freedom of movement and livelihood of local populations. In that context, the co-Chairs called upon all stakeholders to use existing Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM) tools, including agreed joint visits. They also called upon all relevant actors to respect the 12 August 2008 Agreement, as well as the 8 September 2008 Implementing Measures.
The participants reiterated the need to resume the Gali IPRM meetings and welcomed the continued good functioning of the Ergneti IPRM.
The group of experts continued working on the draft joint statement of the participants of the Geneva International Discussions on Non-Use of Force. They exchanged views and agreed to continue the drafting during the next round.
In Working Group II, the participants reviewed the humanitarian situation. Participants expressed concern about the humanitarian consequences of the recent developments at different locations around the Administrative Boundary Lines. Issues related to humanitarian aspects of freedom of movement, missing persons and living conditions were also raised.
The co-Chairs regretted that the two working groups were not able to complete their respective agendas due to the lack of consensus on organizational matters. The co-Chairs will continue their consultations on the matter with a view to find a solution.
On the first day of the discussions participants took part in an information session devoted to the value and functions of unilateral commitments in international law.
The participants agreed to hold their next session on 15 and 16 October 2013.
ANTTI TURUNEN, United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions and the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, said he would like to characterize the session as open and frank in atmosphere, in which intense discussions on a number of issues were held. It was, of course, obvious that there were divergences on some of the issues. But what was important was a continuation of the commitment by all participants to continue the discussions within the Geneva Framework, as it remained the only platform for discussion in the aftermath of the 2008 conflict in Georgia.
Mr. Turunen said he was also happy to note that the overall security situation on the ground, especially on both sides of the Inguri river, was relatively calm and stable. He was pleased that overall, freedom of movement across the line of control had been respected and that four additional new pedestrian crossing points had been opened across the Georgian line of control. Mr. Turunen was also pleased to note that humanitarian access of international organizations had been respected.
All participants had once again demonstrated their commitment to the Geneva process, which was an important factor. As the United Nations Secretary-General stated in his recent report on the IDP issues, the Geneva International Discussions remained the single forum for key stakeholders to discuss security, stability and humanitarian issues. Mr. Turunen said that also showed how much interest the United Nations paid in the discussions and how committed it was to maintain progress in the talks.
ANDRII DESHCHYTSIA, Special Representative of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Chairperson-in-Office for Conflicts, said he would like to add to his colleagues’ words and give some positive examples of what had been discussed in this round of Geneva discussions, especially in the issues of missing persons and water projects.
Mr. Deshchytsia welcomed the commitment from all concerned to address the issue of missing persons. He referred in particular to meetings held at the end of May between the Georgia’s Chief Prosecutor and the families of three missing South Ossetians, whose cases had been re-opened. It was believed the meetings were well received and the process would continue.
Mr. Deshchytsia also noted that some water projects were almost completed, some of which had been visited by the co-Chairs in their last visit to the region. In particular the co-Chairs had visited the Zonkari Dam, an OSCE-implemented and European Union-funded project, which was almost finished. During the last round of talks the need to appoint an operator on the South Ossetia side to manage and maintain the site, and to continue similar projects in the future, was stressed.
Also discussed was the current situation of fencing activities along the ABL with South Ossetia. Mr. Deshchytsia recalled the OSCE Chairperson in Office’s visit to Georgia, where he discussed the issue with Georgian officials and expressed concerns about the process, which created serious obstacles over freedom of movement of the local populations. The issue was also discussed in the framework of the IPRM. Discussions on that would be continued in the forthcoming IPRM meeting in July.
Question from the Press
A journalist recalled that at the last press conference, the co-Chairs’ message had seemed more positive than it was today: how would they characterize the situation now?
Response from the Co-Chairperson
PHILIPPE LEFORT, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, replied that the co-Chairs generally did not give marks to the various Geneva discussions. Logically, it was true that there were problems with a number of items and they did not want to play them up too much. The process had been underway for quite some time, and on the whole was moving in the right direction. They were not here to have the process for the process’s sake, but to find solutions by working together.
Today gave the opportunity for very frank discussions on problems faced at the moment, particularly those related to the physical barriers which have been erected along the ABL. While lack of consensus on organizational issues meant they had not been able to go through the entire agenda for the two working groups, it was not the end of the process.
Serious discussions on a number of fundamental areas to change things in the conflict continued, particularly the commitment of all parties to Non-Use of Force. The discussions took place in this Geneva environment, and in the discussions in the Ergneti IPRM, as well as the regular missions carried out by Ambassador Turunen.
Substantial communications channels were in operation that made it possible to keep the situation on the ground stable, in keeping with the mandate. Progress had been made on other issues, such as of disappeared persons. Progress had also been made in confidence-building measures, including projects on resource sharing, particularly water-resource sharing in South Ossetia.
Mr. Lefort concluded by saying this was a peace process and everything that involved. There were cycles, there were ups, there were downs, but on the whole they were making progress.