Talks aimed at resolving tensions between Georgia and Russia after this
summer's brief war get underway in Geneva Wednesday. The one-day meeting is
being held under the auspices of the United Nations, the European Union and the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Lisa Schlein reports for
VOA from the UN conference site in Geneva.
These were supposed to
have been high-level talks. But, they have now been downgraded to the so-called
expert level of vice-minister.
Daniel Warner is the Director for the
Center of International Governance at the Graduate Institute of International
Development Studies in Geneva. He says people are skeptical about what can be
accomplished given the hostile relationship between Russia and Georgia.
Nevertheless, he tells VOA it is important to have a meeting, which
allows the Russians and Georgians to sit at the same table and
"Having said that, I do not think that there will be a resolution
in the sense of returning to the status quo before August 7. The best thing that
can happen is to guarantee that there will be no more fighting," Warner said.
"To guarantee that there will be peacekeepers on the territory and to begin to
see how they can begin negotiations that somehow can reach some kind of
resolution between two parties which have very different points of view about
Fighting between Russia and Georgia erupted on
August 7 over the Georgian breakaway region of South Ossetia. The five-day war
displaced tens of thousands of people in Georgia proper, as well as in South
Ossetia and Georgia's other breakaway region, Abkhazia.
subsequently moved into Georgia, but says it has since withdrawn its tanks and
troops from the country. During the talks, the United States and other Western
countries are expected to look into Russia's compliance with its withdrawal
commitment under the French-brokered ceasefire agreement.
Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon says the complex issues on the table defy quick
"We should not be too much impatient or hurried to have
so-called technical resolution of this issue. This may take time. So, we need to
have some patience," he said. "In the short term, we need to try our best
efforts among the parties concerned to restore confidence so that we can
establish a conflict resolution process in the end."
Russia and Georgia
are at loggerheads over who should sit at the negotiating table. Russia, which
recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states, wants them to
participate in the talks. Georgia is opposed to this.
Warner says a
compromise appears to have been worked out.
"The compromise as I
understand today is there will be a plenary session only with the Georgians,
Russians and government officials," he said. "Then there will be a second
meeting between experts where people from Abkhazia and Southern Ossetia will be
represented. But, the name tags will only say that they are individuals. They
will give their names. They will not be representing a formal government. That
is the compromise for the moment."
The United States says it still has
serious concerns over the Russian troops' location and their overall numbers in
the breakaway regions. U.S. Assistant Secretary of State, Dan Fried will attend
the talks and see that this issue will be, as a State Department Spokesman says,
front and center during the discussions.