Breakaway Abkhazia demands changes to Geneva Talks

Featured photo of Sokhumi, Abkhazia; Photo by Tripadviser, 19 Sep 2014 - 12:25, Tbilisi,Georgia

The de-facto Foreign Minister of Georgia’s breakaway Abkhazia is demanding changes to the Geneva Talks, which are a formal way where Georgian and Abkhaz authorities can discuss humanitarian affairs.

Viacheslav Chirikba yesterday demanded changes to the format and agenda of the Geneva International Discussions. Despite his demands, Chirikba did not dismiss the important forum entirely and said Sokhumi supported the continuation of the Geneva Talks but only with the changed format. 

"There were problems during the twenty eighth round of talks. We want to avoid them therefore we have to agree in advance about rules of the game,” Chirikba was quoted as saying by Abkhaz news agency Apsnypress.  

The issue was strongly opposed by Georgian officials, who said the format and agenda of the Geneva International Discussions was agreed on the basis of consensus and upsetting this was "totally unacceptable.”

Proposed changes to the format of the talks began during the 28th round of Geneva Talks, which ended abruptly when delegates from Georgia’s two breakaway regions walked out of discussions about humanitarian affairs on June 18. 

 Abkhazia and South Ossetia representatives, backed by a Russian negotiator, left the talks after demanding the issue of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees be removed from the Geneva Talks agenda, saying the issue had been "politicised" by Tbilisi. 

Chirikba believed "format and agenda” were the main problems. 

"We are not discussing the issue of refugees at all but Georgians insist on discussing this issue,” Chirikba said. "But what unites all the participants is the opinion that this forum [Geneva talks] has not exhausted itself, it is useful.” 

Chikirba made his announcement after meeting the co-chairs and negotiators of the Geneva Talks, who reigned from the EU, UN and OSCE in Sokhumi on September 18 – three days after the same delegation visited Tbilisi. 

The parties focused on the issues on the agenda of the 29th round scheduled to take place on October 7 and 8.

Chirikba believed the negotiators were "facing a difficult task of finding a compromise on agenda and format”.

"The Abkhaz side is against of thwarting the talks but there are issues of principle which we cannot give up.” 

During the meeting with co-chairs of the Geneva Talks on September 15, Georgia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again expressed its concern over the action taken at the most recent discussions and underlined that the destructive activities aimed against the format and agenda of the Geneva International Discussions, which were agreed on the basis of consensus, were "totally unacceptable”. 

The delegations outlined possible steps that may be taken to avoid future recurrence of similar action and to ensure that further rounds were held in their due format, the Foreign Ministers press office said. 

The Geneva International Discussions were established to address the consequences of the 2008 conflict in Georgia. One of the outcomes of the talks was the establishment of the Incident Prevention and Response Mechanisms (IPRMs).