Washington briefing: Abkhazia, South Ossetia status talks stall; more aid pledged to Georgia

by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Published: Saturday October 25, 2008

European, Georgian, Russian, and U.S. officials met in Geneva on October 15 to start discussions, in the words of the French President Nicolas Sarkozy, on the "future status" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and quickly adjourned until November, Civil.ge and others reported.

The parties reportedly disagreed on the format of talks, with breakaway republics insisting they should participate in the talks on their future, and Georgia objecting.

The cease-fire agreement negotiated between Russia and Georgia continued to largely hold, although several Russian and Georgian personnel were reported killed in various incidents.

Georgia also demanded a Russian withdrawal from parts of South Ossetia and Abkhazia that Georgia held prior to the August war. That position was supported by Dan Fried of the U.S. State Department, although he conceded that that situation could not be resolved "very easily" or "very soon." Russian officials said areas in question are parts of breakaway republics and would not be turned over.

At a "donors' conference" in Brussels on October 22, the United States confirmed it would be allocating $1 billion in aid to Georgia. Last month, the U.S. Congress appropriated about one-third of that amount for Fiscal Year 2009.

In all, pledges of $4.55 billion in grants and loans over three years were made, with bulk of the funds coming from the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, as well as the European Union (about $1 billion in grants and loans) and Japan ($200 million).

Transparency International (TI), a Berlin-based anticorruption organization, called for publication of the World Bank's needs assessment report on Georgia prepared in advance of the conference.

"Despite the centrality of the Joint Needs Assessment to the future of Georgia, its contents remain secret at the request of the Georgian government," TI Georgia said in a statement, adding that it was unclear how the money was intended to be spent.

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