Internationally backed peace talks between Georgia and Russia broke down on the first day on Wednesday with the rivals, who fought a war in August, blaming each other for the failure to even enter the same room.
“There were two separate meetings, the Russians and the Abkhazians [in one] and the Georgians in another,” Sergei Shamba, foreign minister of the pro-Russian separatist region of Abkhazia, told journalists.
The talks would have been the first time representatives of the two sides have held direct negotiations since the five-day war after Russia thwarted a Georgian assault to retake its breakaway region of South Ossetia.
Russia has kept troops in South Ossetia and another rebel region, Abkhazia, and recognizes both as independent states.
Pierre Morel, an official for the EU, which organized the talks with the UN and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, blamed “procedural difficulties” for the quick suspension of the negotiations.
Georgia said that Russia had refused to meet its delegation.
“It’s regrettable that the Russian Federation has put the process from the very beginning under severe constraints,” Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, head of Georgia’s delegation, told journalists.
Russia would not take part in any further talks with Georgia if representatives from South Ossetia and Abkhazia were not invited, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin said.
The US injected a third element to the breakdown, with its head of delegation Daniel Fried saying that it was the South Ossetians and Abkhazians who failed to exhibit a “constructive spirit” to keep talks going.
“Unfortunately ... the de facto authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia who were present at the meeting, I’m sorry to say did not exhibit such a constructive spirit — they chose instead to walk out of the informational session,” he said.
Meanwhile, EU leaders were set to delay yesterday a decision on when to restart talks with Russia on a stalled partnership pact, suspended after Russia’s incursion into Georgia in August, a draft statement showed.
The draft, due to be approved by leaders at the final session of a two-day summit, welcomed the withdrawal of Russian troops from buffer zones in Georgia, but fell short of saying that partnership talks could start again.
“The European Council is asking the [European] Commission and the Council [of foreign ministers] to continue a full in-depth evaluation of EU-Russia relations with a view to the forthcoming [EU-Russia] summit, scheduled to take place in Nice on Nov. 14,” said the final draft statement.
“It will be taken into account in the further negotiations for a new Partnership Agreement with Russia,” the EU draft statement said.
An earlier version had said that talks would resume next month, but EU President France failed to convince all its partners to agree to this.
In related news, the UN’s highest court ordered Russia and Georgia to ensure the security of all ethnic groups in South Ossetia and Abkhazia and adjacent areas of Georgia.
In a provisional ruling on a lawsuit filed by Georgia that alleged human rights violations by Russia in the region, the International Court of Justice said Georgia and Russia must refrain from sponsoring any act of racial discrimination.
The 15-judge tribunal ruled with eight votes to seven in favor of ordering both parties to do all in their power to ensure the security of persons, freedom of movement and the protection of refugees’ property. It also said Georgia and Russia must allow humanitarian aid to reach local populations.
The court ruled it had jurisdiction to order the measures and ordered both parties to inform it of their compliance.
But Moscow dismissed the court’s jurisdiction.
“We intend to continue to prove that the court has no jurisdiction in this case at the next stage of the proceedings,” Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement on its Web site.
The UN court said that while the Georgian population in the conflict areas remains vulnerable, given the unstable situation and ongoing tension in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and adjacent areas in Georgia, the ethnic Ossetian and Abkhazian populations also remain vulnerable.
“While the problems of the refugees and internally displaced persons in this region are currently being addressed, they have not been resolved in their entirety,” the court said.
VULNERABLE: Many women do not report sexual harassment by their landlord over fears they could lose the roof over their head, an expert said A growing number of landlords are asking tenants for sex in exchange for housing as COVID-19 lockdowns and job cuts have left many struggling to pay their rent, housing experts said. A survey by the National Fair Housing Alliance of more than 100 fair housing groups combating discrimination across the US found that 13 percent had seen an increase in sexual harassment complaints during the pandemic. “If I did not have sex with him, he was going to put me out,” one woman facing eviction by her property manager told the alliance in an podcast on its Web site. “As a single
‘OBVIOUS DIFFERENCE’: The Wuhan Institute of Virology has been researching bat coronaviruses to trace the SARS pathogen, which is 80 percent similar to SARS-CoV-2 The Chinese virology institute in the city where COVID-19 first emerged has three live strains of bat coronavirus on-site, but none match the new contagion wreaking havoc around the world, its director has said. Scientists think COVID-19 — which first emerged in Wuhan and has killed more than 340,000 people worldwide — originated in bats and could have been transmitted to people via another mammal. However, the director of the Wuhan Institute of Virology told state broadcaster China Global Television Network that claims made by US President Donald Trump and others that the novel coronavirus could have escaped from the facility were
HUMAN RIGHTS ABUSES? An institute of the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and a company are to be sanctioned over ‘human rights violations and abuses’ The US Department of Commerce on Friday said that it would sanction a Chinese government institute and eight companies over alleged human rights abuses against Uighurs and other minorities in China’s western Xinjiang region. “These nine parties are complicit in human rights violations and abuses committed in China’s campaign of repression, mass arbitrary detention, forced labor and high-technology surveillance against Uighurs, ethnic Kazakhs and other members of Muslim minority groups in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region,” the department said in a statement. The Chinese Ministry of Public Security’s Institute of Forensic Science and Aksu Huafu Textiles Co are to be sanctioned “for
SPACE RACE: The China Aerospace Science and Technology Corp mission aims to land a robotic rover and put a probe into orbit around the planet China is targeting a July launch for its ambitious Mars mission, which includes landing a remote-controlled robot on the surface of the Red Planet, the company in charge of the project has said. Beijing has invested billions of dollars in its space program in an effort to catch up with its rival, the US, and affirm its status as a major world power. The Mars mission is among a number of new space projects China is pursuing, including putting Chinese astronauts on the moon and having a space station by 2022. Beijing had been planning the Mars mission for some time this year,