Explained: Georgia’s Neighborly Relations
They argue in Sukhumi&# 160; about,&# 160; how to build a relationship with&# 160; Georgia&# 160;
Opponents of the de facto Abkhaz authorities criticize President Aslan’s statements&# 160; Bzhania&# 160;
The problem of relations with Georgia has become the cause of the dispute between the Abkhaz separatists. Supporters of de facto President Aslan Bzhania and his opponents cannot agree on whether Sukhumi should maintain direct contacts with Tbilisi.
Bzhania’s position that dialogue and relations with Georgia are necessary was voiced by him back in winter, during his election campaign. This then became the reason for accusations from his opponents that Bzhania allegedly “surrenders Abkhaz interests.” However, accusations of “pro-Georgian sentiment” did not prevent Bzhania from winning the de facto Abkhaz presidential elections in March..
In June, Aslan Bzhania again spoke about the need for legal trade with Georgia: “Billions of rubles are spent on products from Abkhazia to Georgia. According to our Customs Committee and the Ministry of Agriculture, walnut harvesting amounts to 11-12 thousand tons per year. A maximum of 10% of this volume is exported to Russia, everything else goes to Georgia, and all this money ends up in the pockets of people who, by and large, are involved in smuggling “.
At the same time, on July 3, Bzhania stated that he was interested in the Georgian side signing an agreement on the non-use of force even if Tbilisi did not recognize the independence of the separatist Abkhazia: “We do not demand from the Georgian leadership that they recognize the Abkhaz state, but an agreement on the non-use of strength will give an opportunity for dialogue – humanitarian, economic and any other “.
Bzhania’s statements have provoked mixed reactions in Sukhumi. The Abkhaz organization of veterans “Aruaa”, which supports the former de facto President Raul Khajimba, declared the unacceptability of any relations with Tbilisi without Georgia’s recognition of the independence of Abkhazia. Aruaa claims that Bzhania and the Amtsakhara party supporting him are in solidarity with Georgia’s policy of “involvement without recognition”, which is supported by the EU and the United States..
“They want to deceive us, as the Indians were deceived in due time, having bought from them Manhattan for shiny beads. Georgia dreams that Abkhazia will open the borders for goods from Georgia, albeit for some kind of imaginary duty, which will very quickly lead to trade expansion from Georgia. They will do everything to become the main supplier of goods for Abkhazia to the detriment of our trade and economic ties with Russia, “de facto opponents of the president believe, warning Bzhania that they will regard such a policy” as a threat to our independence and our statehood. “.
In response to this, the de facto Foreign Ministry of Abkhazia said on July 13 that “the signing with Georgia of an agreement excluding the resumption of hostilities, the execution of which will be guaranteed by authoritative international organizations, is a priority task of the foreign policy of the Republic of Abkhazia at this historical stage.”.
At the same time, the separatist Foreign Ministry noted that the Abkhazian “political status is enshrined in the Constitution and is not subject to revision under any circumstances.”.
Political scientist and former deputy head of the Security Council of Georgia Teona Acubardia believes that if the Abkhaz side is really interested in contacts with Tbilisi, then this should happen without preconditions. In particular, according to the expert, the signing of an agreement on the non-use of force will indirectly mean that the Georgian side recognizes the Abkhazians as a party to the conflict, not the Russians. That is, emphasizes Akubardia, this is exactly what Russia has been striving for for years, trying to disguise its role in the conflict with Georgia, which eventually led to the Russian occupation of 20 percent of Georgian territory..
“If Tbilisi signs an agreement on the non-use of force, then only with Moscow, since we had a war with Russia, which is a party to the conflict,” Akubaria summed up in a commentary for the Russian service of the Voice of America.
It is noteworthy that, according to the 1989 census, 48% of Georgians and 17% of Abkhaz lived in Abkhazia. Today, according to Abkhazian official data, the number of Georgians living in Abkhazia has decreased to 19.26%, the share of ethnic Abkhaz has increased to 50.71% of the population..
Negotiations and compromises
Professor at the Georgian Institute of Public Administration Tornike Sharashenidze believes that in general, Sukhumi and Tbilisi need to change their approaches, since the existing policy has not brought results for almost three decades and does not suit either Abkhazians or Georgians.
If Sukhumi gets approval from Russia and can open the dividing line, thereby allowing unhindered contacts between the population, this will be a definite breakthrough in relations. Sharashenidze says that direct negotiations can make sense if all participants are willing to compromise, although for this to determine who wants what, it is necessary to meet at least once..
“If we are talking about an agreement on the non-use of force, this is a rather complicated issue, since Georgia has a conflict with Russia, not the Abkhaz, but let’s say Tbilisi agrees to formalize such an obligation, then what will the Abkhaz agree to in return? Or, it should be said, what will the Russians allow them to agree to? Concessions are not unilateral and the Abkhaz must also be ready for a serious compromise, “the political scientist believes..
Let us recall that as a result of the Russian-Georgian war, Russia in 2008 recognized the independence of two Georgian regions – Abkhazia and South Ossetia – and transferred additional troops and weapons to its military bases in these territories. All states of the world – with the exception of Venezuela, Nicaragua, Nauru and Syria – recognize these regions as the territory of Georgia occupied by Russia.
Sukhumi declared readiness for dialogue with Tbilisi