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Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Georgia on the 53rd Round of the Geneva International Discussions

The 53rd round of the Geneva International Discussions was held on 30 June 2021. The main issues of the discussions included the release of Zaza Gakheladze and other illegally detained Georgian citizens, intensified process of de-facto annexation and illegal seizure of a part of Aibgha village by Russia, deteriorated humanitarian situation in the occupied territories and necessity of ensuring freedom of movement for local population.
 
The discussions focused on acceleration of steps towards de-facto annexation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions by Russia. The Georgian delegation sharply raised Moscow’s provocative steps to define unilaterally the Georgia-Russia state border on the segments of the occupied territories and to incorporate a part of Aibga village of Gagra District into Krasnodar Krai, assessing it as an illegal process of annexation. In this context, the Georgian participants raised the intensified work for integration of the Abkhazia region into Russia through implementation of the so-called programme on joint economic and social space, as well as discussions on establishment of so-called “union state” held between the Russian President and the leader of the Sokhumi occupation regime. It was underlined that Russia’s destructive attempts to forcibly change sovereign borders in Europe are illegal and cannot have any legal effect, as they blatantly violate the fundamental norms of international law and undermine the rules-based international order.
 
In this context, the Georgian participants highlighted the historical Judgment of the European Court of Human rights, which established effective control and occupation of Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions by the Russian Federation as a legalistic fact, and found Russia responsible for human rights violations during the 2008 August war as well as the subsequent period of occupation of Georgia’s territories. The Georgian delegation stated that the Strasbourg Court explicitly speaks about Russia’s responsibility for violation of the right of IDPs and refugees to return to their homes and underlines that the Russian Federation has not implemented the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
 
The Georgian participants focused on increased provocations, intensified so-called borderisation, installation of barbed wire fences and other artificial barriers as well as illegal detentions and kidnappings of locals by the Russian occupation forces. Particular attention was dedicated to the issue of release of Zaza Gakheladze and other illegally detained Georgian citizens. The necessity of solving the issue in a humanitarian manner, unconditionally and timely was stressed. 
 
Within the negotiations, the emphasis was made on militarization and illegal military exercises in the occupied territories, as well as regular violations of Georgia’s air space. It was stressed that the ongoing creeping occupation in the vicinity of Chorchana village creates the growing risks of escalation of conflict.
 
Important part of the discussions was dedicated to human rights and humanitarian situation on the ground. Fatal results and grave socio-economic impact of restriction of freedom of movement across the occupation line was underlined. The Georgian delegation spoke about drowning of 4 Georgian citizens in Enguri River and death of another local resident as a result of injuries inflicted when he fell off the cliff, and stated that these humanitarian tragedies happened because the people were trying to cross the occupation line through alternative routs to avoid illegal detention.
 
The Georgian delegation raised the issue of ethnic discrimination against Georgians in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions and drew attention to the severe conditions of residents of the Akhalgori and Gali districts, as well as the Kodori gorge. The emphasis was made on the necessity of ensuring education in native language for ethnic Georgians and protection of the fundamental rights and freedoms of local population. The importance of unimpeded medical evacuation and the need for unrestricted access to healthcare services for the people living in the occupied territories were also highlighted. The Georgian participants once again brought up the issue of restriction of freedom movement of civil activist and resident of Akhalgori, Tamar Mearakishvili, who has not been allowed by the Russian occupation regime in Tskhinvali to cross the occupation line and visit her family members for years.
 
The Georgian delegation once again stressed the need for execution of justice in the cases of murder of Davit Basharuli, Giga Otkhozoria and Archil Tatunashvili, noting that the sense of impunity encourages ethnically motivated violence and crime.
 
The Georgian participants spoke about the condition of the monuments of cultural heritage in the occupied territories and focused on their intentional damage and destruction, assessing it as a part of the Russification process and an attempt to erase Georgian traces in the Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions.
 
The discussion focused on the need for entry of the European Union Monitoring Mission (EUMM) in Georgia’s Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions, and for unrestricted access of international humanitarian and human rights organizations on the ground.
 
It was stated that the destructive steps of Russia and its occupation regimes directed to undermine the peace negotiations formats increase the risk of escalation of conflict amidst everyday provocations. In this context, emphasis was made on the need for effective use of the international negotiations formats, as well as the necessity of the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism (IPRM), which has been suspended since 2018, to be restored unconditionally, on the basis of the founding principles.
 
The discussions on promoting the Women, Peace and Security (WPS) agenda and gender perspective within the Geneva International Discussions were held in the both Working Groups. The EUMM presented the Gender Analysis of Ergneti IPRM 2016-2020. The Co-Chairs, as well as the US and Georgian participants emphasized the importance of increasing of meaningful engagement of women participants in the peace negotiations, as well as of adequately addressing the needs of conflict-affected and IDP women.
 
Core Agenda items like the non-use of force and international security arrangements were discussed within the negotiations. The Georgian delegation stated, that when Moscow continues to use force and threat of use of force against Georgia through illegal militarization of Georgia’s occupied territories, the importance of affirmation and implementation of the non-use of force commitment by the Russian federation is increasing. According to the Georgian participants, the ceasefire and non-use of force can only be guaranteed with the establishment of international security mechanisms in the occupied territories, which will create a significant basis for lasting peace and security. In this light, the Georgian delegation once again required unconditional withdrawal of the Russian occupation forces from Georgia’s territories and establishment of international security mechanisms on the ground, with full implementation of the provisions of the EU-mediated 12 August 2008 Ceasefire Agreement.
 
One of the most important items of the Agenda – the safe and dignified return of IDPs and refugees, expelled from the occupied territories as a result of ethnic cleansing, was discussed at the negotiations. Despite the efforts of the Georgian delegation to discuss this humanitarian issue in a constructive manner, the Russian Federation and its occupation regimes once again tried to politicize the issue, and walked out of the negotiations during this discussion.
 
Prior to the Geneva International Discussions, in parallel to bilateral consultations with the Co-Chairs and the Co-Moderators, the information session on the topic “Comprehensive / Human Dimension of Security” was conducted, dedicated to the wide range of security and humanitarian issues and their interrelation.
 
The next round of the Geneva International Discussions will take place on 12-13 October 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.