Georgia and Russia resume security talks

GENEVA

Georgia and Russia resumed security talks yesterday after mediators and a UN report helped nudge Moscow’s negotiators back to the table, officials said. All sides agreed to meet again on July 1 for talks intended to head off any further conflict in an area seen by the West as a key transit territory for Caspian gas and oil and by Russia as a historic sphere of influence. 

“The process is in full swing and it today consolidated its working methods,” Pierre Morel, special representative of the European Union for the crisis in Georgia and one of the international co-chairs of the negotiations, told a news conference after about 3-1/2 hours of talks.

The mediators acknowledged that the latest round of talks—the fifth since they were launched following a brief war between Russia and Georgia in August—had had a difficult start.

“Emotions are still raw and positions in some cases wide apart,” said Charalampos Christopoulos, special envoy for the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE). “The discussions are crucial for the security and stability for Georgia, the Caucasus and the wider region,” he added.

Delegations from Russia and the Moscow-backed rebel region of South Ossetia had withdrawn from the two-day talks in Geneva on Monday citing the refusal of another Moscow-backed rebel region, Abkhazia, to attend, due to a delay in a UN report.

In the report on the UN mission in Abkhazia, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said tensions between Georgia and Russia, who fought a brief war over South Ossetia in August, were weighing heavily on the region, an important transit territory for Western gas and oil deliveries to the West.

Talks to date had helped to maintain a “relative calm.” The report cites the official title of “United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia” but otherwise skates round the sensitive question of whether Abkhazia is part of Georgia or not.

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