See you in Sukhumi

See you in Sukhumi

By Diana Zadura

Viewed from the side it would seem that the issue of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is now closed for business, and what happened cannot be undone. Georgians however did not abandon hope. In the New Year message, President Saakashvili proposed to his fellow countrymen to greet with a greeting ”See you in Sukhumi,” following the model of ancient Israeli, greeting with the New Year greeting, ”See you in Jerusalem.”

Despite the war in August 2008, following which the separatist republics declared independence, Georgian authorities have not abandoned diplomatic efforts to regain the lost lands.

In July 2011 the U.S. Senate adopted a resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the regions occupied by the Russian Federation.  November 17th 2011  a similar resolution was adopted by the European Parliament. The document recommends the EU institutions to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia for the territories ’occupied’, and refers to ’ethnic cleansing’ against the Georgian population in relation to armed conflicts in these regions. Determined use of these terms by an European institution was received in Georgia as a breakthrough event. A Polish MEP Krzysztof Lisek - co-initiator of the resolution became hero of Georgian media.

The document recommends that the European executive bodies should push Russia stronger to follow the obligations of the peace plan of August 2008. Russia should withdraw its troops to the line of the status quo ante bellum, and let into the breakaway republics of Europe’s monitoring mission. (Question: would Abkhazians let it in?). Subsequently, Russia should withdraw its troops from the separatist regions and cancel recognition of their independence.
 

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It is doubtful that the resolution will persuade Russia to make concessions in this matter. ”The resolution has no legal force” - as stated by the representative of the Russian Duma, Andrei Klimov - adding that the resolution was a gesture of solace of Brussels for Georgia after its concessions, which allowed the entry of Russia into the World Trade Organization. The peace plan Russia signed had legal force, yet it didn`t lead Moscow to respect it.

Similarly, several resolutions issued by the UN General Assembly calling to enable  the return of Georgian refugees to separatistic republics do not produce any effect, up to this day both Sukhumi and Tskhinvali refuse any dialogue on this topic.

Although the resolutions are more symbolic than causative, in Georgia any signal of support of the international environment is perceived as a success and is of particular importance in the context of political and economic rapprochement with Europe. And that could mean a greater willingness of international structures to engage in regulating the frozen conflicts. The first to herald this has been the statement of the new OSCE President.

Since autumn 2008 under the aegis of the EU, UN and OSCE a regulation of conflict has been sought within the Geneva meetings.

Many, however, indicates that the positions of Tbilisi and the breakaway republics are invariably incompatible. Tbilisi denies the existence of ethnic conflict, pointing to Russia as the sole perpetrator of the problem. Sukhumi and Tskhinvali are demanding recognition of their independence. Recognition of the territories as occupied stresses that they are not subject to the conflict, which is untrue.

The August 2008 war has strengthened the Russian military presence in both regions and deepened their hostility towards Georgia. Similarly, distrust and hostility are further deepened by the resolutions of international structures, which are seen as pro-Georgian, and so reduce the reliability of these structures as a mediator. Political and economic isolation of Abkhazia, for years has pushed the region into the arms of Russia, because of lack of choice. For now, the West agrees to the conditions set by the Georgia, but will it be always like this?

Recently, President Saakashvili has repeatedly expressed his conviction that Russia as an empire will inevitably fall. In his thinking one can see the hope that political changes in Russia in the future will allow Georgia to regain control over 20% of the lost territory. But the scenario that a decaying Russia withdraws its troops from Abkhazia does not mean Abkhazians will love Georgia and will let it be deprived of its de facto sovereignty.

The case of territorial unity appears in the Georgian media again and again even in the context of the multitude of problems of displaced persons, and more recently in the context of the destruction of Georgian monuments in Abkhazia.

At the opening of the hospital in Gori, which was probably most affected by 2008 war, the president used the occasion to refer to the Russian threat and changes made after the Rose Revolution.

In his speech he compared the current momentum of changes (reforms, improvement of infrastructure) with the period a golden age and the rule of King David the Builder (XIIcentury), who defeated the invaders and united the country. ”From the time of King David and Tamara there has not been built in Georgia as much as in the last 2-4 years“ - he said. Very clearly, this historical figure – a symbol of a strong, united and multiethnic Georgia - is a big inspiration for the president. A historic rebirth of the country seems to be his greatest political ambition.

It is worth mentioning that in the first presidential oath in 2004, Mikheil Saakashvili went outside its framework and on his own initiative, took the oath on the tomb of King David the Builder in Gelati, where he declared that the country’s reunification as the goal of his life. Today in place of “reunification” Tbilisi increasingly uses the term “deoccupation”.

“Recovery of Tbilisi took him [David the Builder] 34 years. Occupied Abkhazia and South Ossetia are for us today what was then Tbilisi. “
 

 

 
 
Polityka Wschodnia
 
 
14.03.2012
 
 
 

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