Marking 5 years of the Istanbul Process

Marking 5 years of the Istanbul Process

As the fifth anniversary of the Istanbul Process is coming up, this publication is released to commemorate the work of Dr. George Khutsishvili, the director of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation who passed away in October 2013. The work of George Khutsishvili revolved around his beloved Georgia, as well as the Caucasus region in general - a context with several complex conflicts. He was the initiator and the regional representative of the Caucasus network of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict, and the founder of the Russia-Georgia Dialogue Process, also known as the Istanbul Process.

The Istanbul Process was an expression of his passion for the use of dialogue as a tool to prevent violence and peacefully resolve conflict and can be seen as the first step in a process of normalisation of relations between Russia and Georgia. This publication provides an overview of the activities and results of the Process, which brought together political experts from both countries to discuss the aftermath and ways forward after the 2008 conflict.

Among the dialogue processes facilitated within the framework of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC) in recent years, the Istanbul Process has played a prominent role. In the aftermath of the August 2008 conflict between Russia and Georgia, the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (ICCN), located in Tbilisi, initiated a dialogue between Russian and Georgian political experts. These meetings were later dubbed the Istanbul Process for its location, which participants deemed conducive for a sensitive dialogue process. Since its inception, the Istanbul Process has become the longest-living dialogue between high-profile experts from Russia and Georgia and has developed serious capacity to influence the relations between the two countries.

Initially the Istanbul Process started as a Track-two diplomacy effort. It produced a wide range of exchange and analysis of the fundamental causes of the conflict, key trigger factors, and potential mechanisms for normalising relations. The participants included independent political experts and analysts, prominent journalists and editors of key media outlets, civil society representatives, academics and leading scholars from think-tanks in both societies. These experts have contributed to the process in various ways, most notably through their joint political analyses, by conducting and publicising studies on the subject, and through sharing perspectives in their respective societies through the media and advocacy efforts. Additionally, experts from both countries have joined in international advocacy visits, of which the September 2012 visits to Washington and New York turned out to be key events in raising awareness and international support for the dialogue process.

After the October 2012 Parliamentary Elections in Georgia, the political environment of the Russia-Georgia relations changed substantially. For the first time, the Istanbul Process had a chance of raising its status from Track-two (strictly non-governmental) to Track-one-and a-half (including informal participation of governmental and political figures). The prospect of political negotiations on a broad spectrum of issues, not yet crossing the ‘red lines' into bilateral relations, has gradually been gaining momentum ever since.

The publication provides a chronological overview of the process from its inception up to the last advocacy visit in May 2013.