Georgia slams Russian violations after Geneva talks

6th November 2013, Comments 0 comments

Georgia on Wednesday slammed a raft of Russian security violations along a ceasefire line set when Moscow defeated its former satellite in a lightning war five years ago.

"The security and human rights situation on the ground is alarming," chief negotiator David Zalkaliani told reporters after peace talks in Geneva.

"There is a continued build up of military and security infrastructure, Georgian airspace violations, kidnapping, murder, detentions and other alarming incidents, which pose a direct challenge to security and stability on the ground".

Georgia and its former master went to war in August 2008 over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which split from Georgia after the USSR crumbled in 1991.

Russia deployed troops there in the 1990s, and says the war was a response to a Georgian attack -- an option Tbilisi has now formally renounced.

Russia recognised the regions' independence after the war. But Georgia and the overwhelming majority of the international community still consider them its territory.

A major flashpoint is the construction by Russian troops and the breakaway regions' security forces of barbed-wire fences and trenches along the ceasefire line, seen by Georgia as an attempt to set the border in stone.

Georgia says civilians along the line suffer violence, and that hundreds of families are unable to reach their farmland or cemeteries where relatives are buried.

Despite their bitter differences, Georgia and Russia have continued talking under the auspices of the European Union, the United Nations and the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe.

They held a 25th round of their so-called Geneva International Discussions in the Swiss city on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Under the terms of the 2008 ceasefire brokered by then French president Nicolas Sarkozy -- whose country was at the helm of the EU at the time -- Russian troops were to pull back to pre-war positions in South Ossetia and Georgia.

But Russia is accused of failing to respect that.

"In the view of the European Union, obviously the Russian forces have not returned to their previous positions, so the ceasefire agreement of 2008 has not been fully implemented from this very important perspective," EU mediator Philippe Lefort said Wednesday.

Russia has "another narrative" about the issue, Lefort noted, but "to my knowledge they have not significantly moved since 2008-2009".

Russia's delegation opted not to speak to reporters.

The talks also focus on missing persons on both sides, refugee returns and access for aid across the line.

Lefort said that despite the border concerns, mediators welcomed "the relative stability and the calm situation that had prevailed" since talks in June, while OSCE mediator Andrii Deshchytsia said there was a "constructive atmosphere" in Geneva.

Georgia's deputy negotiator Gocha Lordkipanidze, meanwhile, said this week's session had been "a rough ride, but it was business as usual".

Fresh talks are due on December 17-18.

© 2013 AFP

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