What is stopping Georgia from restoring dialogue with Moscow?
Sukhumi declared readiness for dialogue with Tbilisi
Separatist authorities pledge to end discrimination against ethnic Georgians
The new leaders of Abkhazia declare their readiness to conduct a dialogue with the central government of Georgia. At the same time, the separatists continue to demand that Tbilisi sign an agreement on the non-use of force. Such statements were made both by the de facto president of the self-proclaimed republic, Aslan Bzhania, and by the de facto head of the Abkhaz Security Council, Sergei Shamba..
“Abkhazia is an independent state with all the ensuing legal, political and other consequences. And here there can be no discrepancies. But at the same time, everyone needs peace. The peoples of both Abkhazia and Georgia are interested in it. Only on such principles are our further dialogue, interaction and prospects for normalizing relations possible, from which, in my opinion, both sides will benefit, “Bzhania said on August 11 in an interview with Russian media..
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 “.
Official Tbilisi refuses to sign an agreement on the non-use of force, as it believes that the separatist regions “are not independent parties to the conflict” and insists that the signing of such an agreement, if necessary, is possible only with Russia. Moscow declares that it does not recognize itself as a party to the conflict and refuses to sign such an agreement. Tbilisi claims that Georgia has already committed itself not to use force to restore its territorial integrity, citing statements by Georgian leaders from the EU and UN tribunes. However, Tskhinvali, Sukhumi and Moscow consider this insufficient and insist on the written execution of this oral statement..
Bzhania’s position that dialogue and relations with Tbilisi are necessary was voiced by him back in winter – during his election campaign. At that moment, this prompted accusations from his opponents that Bzhania was “surrendering Abkhaz interests.” However, accusations of “pro-Georgian sentiment” did not prevent Bzhania from winning the de facto Abkhaz presidential elections in March..
A similar statement about the importance of dialogue with Tbilisi was made by the head of the separatist Security Council Sergei Shamba, who also noted the need to forget past grievances: “We cannot bring up the young generation in hatred, this cannot be done, it destroys the souls of young people. It’s all gone, so we need to think about how to build friendly relations. “.
At the same time, Shamba touched upon the issue of ethnic Georgians living in Abkhazia, stressing the inadmissibility of their oppression. In particular, during the presidency of Raul Khajimba, Abkhaz Georgians were deprived of local documents under the pretext that they simultaneously had Georgian passports. Shamba said that the issue is “ambivalent”, pointing out that an agreement on dual citizenship has not yet been signed with Russia, but at the same time the majority of Abkhaz residents have Russian passports.
“It seems to me that we should not alienate these people, because they are to a large extent the indigenous inhabitants of Abkhazia … and we still need to somehow resolve the issue of their citizenship in Abkhazia. Today they have the right to obtain a residence permit, but I think that it is offensive for them, because their ancestors lived on this land … The racial approach is generally unacceptable in a civilized society, and even more so in our country, where such a mixed population, such a conversation, such a topic should not be present at all. It seems to me that we still need to deal with their citizenship in Abkhazia, “Shamba said..
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..
Conflict expert Paata Zakareishvili, former State Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality, noted in an interview with the Voice of America Russian Service that the de facto ex-president and now Abkhaz Prime Minister Alexander Ankvab, as well as Sergei Shamba, are known for their “constructive” attitude towards Tbilisi. At the same time, unlike the ex-president, the Kremlin’s protege Raul Khadzhimba, according to Zakareishvili, they, like Aslan Bzhania, are less pro-Russian and strive for greater independence of Abkhazia, including from Russia..
“Amid the crisis in Russia, which is delaying financial assistance to Abkhazia, the new leaders of the separatist region are trying to find a way out of the difficult economic situation in which Abkhazia finds itself outside of Russia. They are considering options, including a dialogue with Georgia, as this can also provide an opportunity to get in touch with Europe and the civilized world in general, “Zakareishvili said..
The expert calls the reaction of Tbilisi “strange”, which, according to him, prefers to respond to signals from Sukhumi with silence. Zakareishvili believes there are several reasons for this. Firstly, there is a pre-election period in the country, and the government has no time for Sukhumi. In addition, the conflict analyst claims, the ruling Georgian Dream is inclined to react to criticism of the opposition, which, if the government expresses its readiness to speak with Sukhumi, “will most likely accuse the authorities of pro-Russian sentiments and the surrender of national interests.” According to Zakareishvili, the ruling power is sensitive to such accusations and tries to avoid them..
“We can say with certainty that there will be no progress before the elections. At the same time, this does not mean what exactly Sukhumi will answer after the elections. Although the election results will outline the prospects for the future of our relations, “Paata Zakareishvili summed up..
Recall that after the Russian-Georgian war in 2008, Russia 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 – consider these regions as the territory of Georgia under Russian occupation..