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19 May, 2009 11:41

Agree to disagree

Russia and Georgia have found themselves in rare agreement - both have criticized a UN report on the security situation in the Caucasus.

Moscow says the document is biased, while Tbilisi claims it was drawn up under Russia's influence, something Moscow was quick to dismiss.

Security talks in Geneva restarted on Tuesday, after being suspended when Abkhazia walked out.

However, Abkhazia says it's now happier with the content of the report.

The Republic’s Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba said all phrasing to which Sukhum had objected has now been dropped.

Three days later than scheduled, UN General Secretary Ban Ki Moon produced a report on the current situation in the Caucasus, Aleksandr Pisarev, member of the Russian UN mission stated to the Ria Novosti news agency. According to Pisarev, this version of the report, as compared to the earlier ones, does not state that Abkhazia is part of Georgia.

Russia and Georgia are also attending the discussions which are aimed at differences resulting from the war in South Ossetia last August.

Earlier on Tuesday, Abkhazia’s President Eduard Kokoity blamed the UN for having a double standard.

The President stressed that neither his Republic nor South Ossetia refuse to take part in the talks, but both want equal rights for all the participants.

“There are facts of the reality which have to be taken into account. That is recognizing the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. So we want to hold talks on equal terms,” said Kokoity.

Meanwhile, Georgia has blamed Russia saying it was hindering the peace process in the region. Earlier Russia suggested halting the consultations until Abkhazia gets back to the negotiating table. The Russian side said that in the absence of one of the parties at this meeting, it would be ineffective to discuss serious security issues.

But Georgia insisted that was not the reason enough to suspend the talks.

“The Russian negotiators have withdrawn from the discussions for reasons not connected with the agenda and format of the talks,” the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on Tuesday.

The country has also proclaimed Russia’s decision "provocative."

Tbilisi is sure that the UN “will not make any decisions violating Georgia’s territorial integrity,” said the country’s Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze, quoted by ITAR TASS.

In his comments on the UN Secretary General’s report on the situation in the Caucasus, Vashadze has noted that this document is “preliminary” and “must be carefully examined.”

“Yet even now we can unambiguously say that no compromises, no decisions violating Georgia’s territorial integrity or the international legal status of the country’s internationally acknowledged borders, will be made,” added the minister.

Both Russia and Georgia criticise the report

As he also said, the document “contains positive points and those that have obviously been included into the report under Russia’s pressure.”

The Russian Foreign Ministry immediately refuted Georgia’s accusations of pressing on the UN, saying they were “twaddle,” RIA Novosti reports. According to Igor Lyakin-Frolov, a Ministry representative, Russia itself is not satisfied with the document and considers it biased.

“It is twaddle,” he said. “We could equally state that the report is prepared under Georgia’s pressure.”

“We consider it biased. Many of its clauses disagree with our position and our evaluation of the present situation in Transcaucasia,” said the diplomat.

The UN Secretary General presented his report three days later than was initially planned, because of the variant readings of the document’s title. The United States was insisting on mentioning Abkhazia as a part of Georgia. Eventually, a neutral formulation was approved.

The next round of the Geneva consultations is scheduled for July 1, Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister and State Secretary Grigory Karasin has advised.

“As always, we emphasized [at today’s talks] that a compulsory, obligatory agreement must urgently be made between Georgia and South Ossetia, as well as Georgia and Abkhazia, on the non-use of force,” said the Russian diplomat.

No to international police forces

Karasin also dismissed Tbilisi’s allegations of Russia thwarting the work of the peace-keepers in the conflict zones.

“It is not true. The thing is that Georgian representatives, with help from Americans, tried to impose a discussion on certain formats of the international peace-keeping operation, and the presence of international police forces in Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” said the Deputy Foreign Minister to Interfax.

He then continued that, “a special mission of the EU observers is present in the territories adjacent to South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”

"What other additional international peace-keeping and police forces Georgians want to talk about, they failed to explain,” added Karasin.