Georgia

Georgia: JCC pointless, but Tbilisi will not deter it

Although existing Russian-led negotiating format over South Ossetia is absolutely pointless, Tbilisi "will not block" it, Davit Bakradze, the Georgian state minister for conflict resolution issues, said on October 24.

Two days of negotiations between the Georgian, South Ossetian, Russian and Russia's North Ossetian sides in frames of quadripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC) has failed to yield any results.

"We are ready to continue working in frames of existing format and we are not going to block this format," Davit Bakradze said at a news conference. "However, we will make a major focus on those formats, which bring concrete results."

He said such formats were the Georgian state commission set up this summer to develop South Ossetia's status and the Tbilisi-loyal South Ossetian provisional administration, led by Dimitri Sanakoev.

"These are the formats, where we have concrete and result-oriented projects. This is a direction, which will really help us in conflict resolution," Davit Bakradze said.

Remarks were made shortly after Bakradze's deputy, Dimitri Manjavidze - who acts as Georgia's chief negotiator in the JCC - said that the session of the commission, which was the first over a year, ended without any results.

JCC plenary session was held in the OSCE mission headquarters in Tbilisi on October 23-24.

The Georgian negotiators said they had several goals during the talks and setting up of an observation post of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces - involving the Georgian, Ossetian and Russian troops - at the village of Didi Gupta was one of them.

The village is located at the northern extreme of the conflict zone - an area defined as a 15-km radius around the South Ossetian capital of Tskhinvali. The village is on the strategic road, which is described by the South Ossetian side as "the road of life." Through this road it is possible to reach the breakaway region's capital, Tskhinvali, from the north of the region by-passing the Georgian-administered villages.

Tbilisi hopes that an observation post at Didi Gupta will prevent trafficking of arms within the conflict zone.

"It is pointless to even to talk about demilitarization of the conflict zone - which is our top priority - without having an observation post at Didi Gupta," Mamuka Kurashvili, commander of the Georgian peacekeeping battalion in the conflict zone, said after the JCC session.

An observation post in Didi Gupta, Georgian officials say, is the first step towards demilitarization of the region, with others to follow, including control of Roki Tunnel, which links the breakaway region with neighboring North Ossetia.

South Ossetian chief negotiator, Boris Chochiev, said that this proposal is totally unacceptable for Tskhinvali. "This is a road of life for us and it will remain under our control," Chochiev said after the talks.

Involvement of Dimitri Sanakoev, head of the Tbilisi-loyal South Ossetian provisional administration, is yet another goal of Tbilisi, which is opposed by Tskhinvali and Moscow.

"Sanakoev is criminal and he should be jailed," Boris Chochiev said. "I am sure the Georgian government itself will understand it very soon."

Russia's position is that Sanakoev holds an official position in the Georgian state structure and he can not be regarded as a side into the conflict.

South Ossetia's major demand during the talks was to start working on development of the agreement on non-use of force, which, Tskhinvali hopes, will be signed by South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard Kokoity and President Saakashvili.

"Georgian ex-defense minister, Irakli Okruashvili, has admitted just recently that the plan existed about forceful solution of the conflict," Boris Chochiev said after the talks. "Why should be trust Tbilisi, or where are guarantees that [Davit] Kezerashvili [the current Georgian defense minister] has no such plan now?"

Georgian negotiators, however, say such an agreement is pointless in the absence of demilitarization. Tbilisi also says that the agreement will only work under the international guarantees when Russia no longer has a leading role in the peace process.

Davit Bakradze, the Georgian state minister for conflict resolution issues, blamed both Tskhinvali and Moscow for failed talks in Tbilisi.

"During two days the Georgian side tried to be as constructive as possible. It did its utmost to reach concrete agreements in frames of this negotiating format. Unfortunately, we failed to reach any agreement, firstly, because the representatives of the Tskhinvali-based authorities were not ready for constructive dialogue and compromises," Bakradze said. "On the other hand, it is also regretful, that the Russian Federation, as a mediator, failed to lead the process to a final agreement."

"Conflict resolution is a process, which needs concrete, serious decisions. Until now we have not seen any concrete decisions made by the Joint Control Commission," he added. "Unfortunately, this recent session has once again demonstrated that the JCC is very superficial and pointless."

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