Russia walks out of security talks with Georgia

19th May 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Russians left the meeting after complaining about the absence of the delegation from the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, who have boycotted the two-day meeting.

Geneva -- Russian officials walked out of talks on Monday with their Georgian counterparts aimed at easing tensions since their war last year, a diplomatic source told AFP.

The Russians left the meeting after complaining about the absence of the delegation from the Georgian breakaway region of Abkhazia, who have boycotted the two-day meeting, the source said.

"The Russians left in the middle of the talks along with the Ossetians," the source said, referring to another separatist Georgian region, South Ossetia.

"They felt there was no reason to discuss security in the Caucasus without the Abkhazians," the source added.

In Moscow, Russian Foreign Ministry Sergei Lavrov said the delegation had decided to "take a break," Russian news agencies reported.

"The basic conditions which should guarantee the holding of this round of talks have not been respected," he said.

"The Russian delegation to the consultations in Geneva proposed to take a break until tomorrow (Tuesday)," he added.

Russia was waiting for a report from United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on the activities of UN observers in Georgia and Abkhazia, he said.

Diplomats in Geneva said they hoped Abkhazian officials might still participate on Tuesday, the meeting's last day.

The security and humanitarian talks are being held under the joint auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).

Abkhazia had threatened Saturday to boycott the discussions in protest at how the UN has described the region's status. Earlier Monday, Abkhazian officials failed to turn up when the talks began in Geneva.

In previous UN reports the region was called "Abkhazia, Georgia" -- a wording that irritated the Moscow-backed region since it implied the territory was part of Georgia.

There is a long-running dispute over the status of the two rebel regions, which are recognised by Russia as independent but which most of the world considers part of Georgia.

Diplomats were expecting little progress to be made during the talks amid few signs that the tense climate in the region is easing.

Earlier this month, Tbilisi accused Moscow of encouraging a mutiny by army officers on the eve of NATO exercises, prompting Russian Vice Foreign Minister Grigori Karassin -- a regular participant in the Geneva talks -- to retort that Georgia was a destabilising factor in the region.

Meanwhile, a security meeting between Georgian, Russian and South Ossetian officials on the ground -- a key outcome of February's talks in Geneva -- was called off on May 7 because of disagreements about where it would be held.

Tbilisi and Moscow blame each other for the cancellation.

At the last round of talks in Geneva in February, Russia and Georgia took their first concrete steps to prevent a new military clash by accepting proposals to open up more immediate channels of communication between the forces on the ground.

But other security arrangements, including on militia movements and force build-ups, still have to be tackled.

The February meeting also failed to produce an agreement on the second key area, humanitarian issues, including access to aid for Georgian populations in South Ossetia, and the return of refugees.

In a further sign of the tense climate, the OSCE announced last week that it was suspending talks on extending its mission in Georgia.

About 20 OSCE military observers are deployed there, along with 225 European Union observers, to monitor compliance with a ceasefire that halted the fighting between Russia and Georgia in South Ossetia.


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