6 November 2013
The Co-Chairs of the Geneva International Discussions gave a press conference this afternoon at the end of the twenty-fifth 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-fifth 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 developments that had occurred since the previous round, the co-Chairs welcomed the relative stability and the calm situation that had prevailed but noted with concern the effect on the freedom of movement and the livelihood of local population of the continued deployment of fences and other obstacles at different locations along the Administrative Boundary lines. Therefore, the co-Chairs called upon all participants to ensure that those developments were addressed within the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRM) with the aim to find tailored solutions to arising problems.
The participants reiterated the need to resume the Gali IPRM meetings and welcomed the continued good work done within the Ergneti IPRM. They once again exchanged views about the ongoing work on the draft statement of the participants in the Geneva International Discussions on non-use of force and agreed to continue engaging in that process with the view to adopt such a statement in the near future. The participants welcomed the catalogue of best practices and undertakings regarding freedom of movement reached in the two IPRMs as presented by the co-Chairs.
In Working Group II, the participants reviewed the humanitarian situation on the ground. Participants also expressed concern about the humanitarian consequences of the developments that had affected the daily life of the local population along the Administrative Boundary Line. The participants had also exchanged views on practical ways to address the issues related to the freedom of movement, missing and detained persons, as well as on some aspects related to the displaced persons.
The participants agreed to hold their next session on 17-18 December 2013.
ANTTI TURUNEN, United Nations Representative to the Geneva International Discussions and the Joint Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism, said that he was satisfied that the round had been conducted in a constructive manner, with all participants demonstrating their commitment to the Geneva platform. Full agendas of the two Working groups had been discussed in a regular working mode.
Today’s session marked the fifth year of often difficult process of consultations and debates on issues related to peace and stability on the ground. It was a time for reflection on how to make the Geneva discussions more productive in the future. United Nations remained committed to do all it could to make the discussions successful.
Mr. Turunen said that on the ground the situation had remained relatively calm and stable. Overall, freedom of movement at the dedicated crossing points at the Inguri River had remained satisfactory and the humanitarian access for the international organizations had been respected. Nonetheless, an increase in the number of criminal activities had been noted, particularly in the lower Gali district, reportedly related to the hazelnut harvesting season and increased wealth of the local population; these activities manifested mostly in the forms of robberies, kidnappings and so on. Law enforcement agencies on both sides of the line of control had taken measures to prevent further criminal activities; but the participants believed that these issues should also be tackled through joint and coordinated actions and hoped to be able to resume the work of the Gali IPRM soon in order to address this kind of problems. The hope was that the current trend would not continue, and that peaceful solutions could be found to the current problems created by criminal activities on the ground.
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 25th round as constructive, given that the works on the agendas of both Working Groups had been completed. Since the last round of the Geneva discussions, there had been four meetings of the Ergneti IPRM. The situation in this part was calm and stable, and the hotline remained an important and effective instrument to address the raising situations and should continue to be used regularly. The fencing issue remained a factor of concern, and was influencing negatively the overall atmosphere of the IPRM. The situation of the local population that was affected by the fencing still awaited practical solutions. In that respect, the proposal of conducting a joint visit to an affected site in order to assess the conditions of the local population was reiterated to the participants in the IPRM meeting, and an agreement on such matter in the upcoming meetings of the IPRM would be appreciated.
Mr. Deshchytsia said that the issue of the freedom of movement had also been discussed, especially now that the new rules on Administrative Boundary Line were about to be introduced. It was believed that openness and sharing information in this case would help prevent escalation on the ground. The new rules would not create new barriers, but would help understand how the population living in the area would react to the new situation. The issue of the missing persons was also discussed, and the approach of the Georgian Prosecutor General’s Office to reopen the cases was welcomed. There was hope that in one of the upcoming sessions of the IPRM, a meeting of relatives of the missing persons and the Prosecutor’s Office could be arranged to have an update on this issue.
Question from the Press
A journalist asked about troop numbers on either side of the line. Was there any sign that the commitments made in 2008 were being respected when it came to numbers of deployed troops?
Response from the Co-Chairperson
PHILIPPE LEFORT, European Union Special Representative for the South Caucasus and for the crisis in Georgia, replied that the 5th point of the 6-point agreement read that Russian military forces should return to the positions held before 8 August 2008. In the view of the EU, the Russian forces had not returned to their previous position, and therefore the 2008 ceasefire agreement had not been fully implemented in this regard. Mr. Lefort also said that the numbers had not significantly moved since 2008-2009.
For use of the information media; not an official record