Eurasian Home - Analytical Resource, March 19, 2008
DMITRY MEDOEV, GURAM GUMBA, SERGEI ARUTUNOV, SERGEI MARKEDONOV, MOSCOW
Dmitry MEDOEV, Plenipotentiary Representative of South Ossetia in Russia
It is good that a lot of MPs, experts and journalists were present at the hearings on Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transnistria held in the State Duma of the Russian Federation on March 13. This indicates that the subject is of great interest. That’s why the parliament hearings will go on.
I would like to say that the discussion was official. Its official name is “On the state of settlement of the conflicts in the territory of the CIS and on appeal to the Russian Federation about recognition of independence of the republics South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria”.
I would like to start with the settlement process. Unfortunately, the Georgian-Ossetian settlement process reached a deadlock. Quite a few agreements, protocols, which had been signed in the course of the settlement process, were frozen. Consultations and meetings are not held any more. The only format is the Joint Control Commission that organized those meetings and that was established in 1992 according to the Sochi agreements. All the talks participants believe that this format was efficient. But after 2003, when new people came into power in Georgia, problems have arisen in the negotiations process. Now it is the Georgian authorities that are to blame for the negotiations’ reaching an impasse.
All in all, 50 protocols were signed within the framework of the Joint Control Commission. The protocols were in line with the Sochi agreements. In the main the negotiations were held on three main issues: cessation of hostilities, demilitarization of the conflict zone, return of the refugees and the economic rehabilitation in the conflict zone. The legal groundwork had been carried out. The process was based on the agreements between the Russian and Georgian governments dated 1993 and 2000. Unfortunately, later Georgia withdrew its signatures.
Those agreements provided for implementation of a whole number of the projects on the economic recovery, return of refugees to the conflict zone, etc. It was calculated that the damage, which had been caused to South Ossetia during the conflict, cost more that 40 billion rubles as of 1992. Russia undertook to give South Ossetia economic aid of one third of that amount, and Georgia agreed to cover two thirds.
Georgia complied with no clause of this agreement. Russia met its commitments and continues to do so.
Since last December till the hearings in the Parliament the situation in South Ossetia has deteriorated dramatically - provocations, explosions and kidnappings have taken place. Against that background Georgia is being militarized. Along the entire border of South Ossetia the fortifications are constructed. The Georgian party sas that it is unwilling to carry on negotiations, and that there is a need to revise the format of the Joint Control Commission.
Under the circumstances the Kosovo precedent speeded up the process connected with South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transnistria. The parliament hearings are natural development of that process. The Speakers of Abkhazia and Transnistria’s Parliaments and the Vice-Speaker of South Ossetia’s Parliament addressed the hearings. The addresses contained the reasons for raising the question of the republics’ independence. The appeal for recognition of independence of South Ossetia, which had earlier been filed with the State Duma, was also voiced.
In our view, it was a very acute discussion that will continue. This is the beginning of the process of recognition of the republics. The recognition as such is not an end in itself. We know many recognized states that de facto are not full-fledged ones. We must focus on maintenance of peace in South Ossetia, economic upsurge, establishment of close economic relations with Russia, creation of new jobs and strengthening of defense since Georgia’s threat still exists.
South Ossetia will continue fighting for its recognition. The hearings showed that Russia offered sufficient potential for doing that. The Russian community and political elite are in principle ready to take new steps and face new developments.
It would be reasonable to discuss the issues of Russia’s cooperation with the three republics at the Commissions of Defense, Security and at the other core Commissions specializing in the economy and the humanitarian ties.
As a result of such activities Russia is going to shape its principles of developing the relations with the three republics.
Guram GUMBA, Head of the Commission on Inter-Parliamentary and Foreign Relations of the Abkhaz Parliament
For over 15 years now Abkhazia has hoped to establish the intergovernmental relations with Russia. But we believe that those appeals didn’t receive proper attention from the Russian government officials.
The parliament hearings have made a double impression on me. On the one hand, Russia’s position towards Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia remains unchanged. But I has been reassured by the fact that a lot of MPs, public figures, experts and political scientists came out for the establishment of the intergovernmental relations with the republics.
I would like to note that the people’s aspiration for independence results from the domestic processes that have taken place in the republics for decades, rather than to their attitude towards Georgia.
Currently we expect that Russia will work out a clear position on Abkhazia and the entire South Caucasus. We do not want the relations with Russia to depend on the relations between Russia and Georgia. Those are different things.
What are we going to do? We regard Russia not only as a guarantor of the Abkhaz people’s security but also as a guarantor of the state independence and sovereignty of Abkhazia. In the future we are going to enhance cooperation with the other countries to make our vision of the situation clear.
You know that because of the information blockade Georgia’s standpoint dominates on the international arena. We have to do very much to make the world community accept the Abkhazian vision of the situation.
Sergei ARUTYUNOV, Head of the Caucasus Department of Institute of Ethnic Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Corresponding Member of the Russian Academy of Sciences
The current events are not a conflict between Georgia and South Ossetia or between Russia and Georgia. This is a conflict between Russia and the USA, the Western bloc that is getting more consolidated owing to the change of the situation in Europe.
More and more often France accepts the decisions made by NATO. The bloc’s Eastern members the are more loyal to the USA than to the EU.
We got used to treating all the unrecognized territories in the post-Soviet space “in a single package”. So, many were surprised not to find Nagorno-Karabakh on the list. But these cases cannot be reduced all to the same pattern because they actually are quite different. If to use the typology, Abkhazia is the most specific republic, it can be set off against the other three ones. Nagorno-Karabakh can be contrasted with Transnistria and South Ossetia that have much more in common.
As regards Kosovo, recognition of its independence is a significant precedent. Within the last centuries it is the 80-th if not the 200-th precedent. The first one was that of the self-proclaimed republic of the United States of America. The second was when the republic in question cruelly suppressed the breakaway South Confederacy that expressed the people’s will legally. Later on, there were many precedents including successful ones like Bangladesh and those cruelly suppressed like the short-lived Republic of Biafra.
What is the difference? Abkhazia’s population is a nation forming a state and there are no other territories densely inhabited by Abkhazians. There is such a situation neither in Transnistria nor in South Ossetia. In South Ossetia the South Ossetians live together with the Georgians and two governments (those of Eduard Kokoity and Dmirty Sanakoev) exist there. The South Ossetians began to settle there, mainly, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The Ossetian villages were populated by the bought serfs in a large measure. After the Persian shah’s invasion the Georgian feudal lords lost some serfs and had too few of them. Ossetia witnessed land shortage and overpopulation, so minor Ossetian feudal lords were glad to sell their serfs.
This is history and it is of no fundamental importance unless you learn that in the Caucasus the historical facts and their interpretation exert the most powerful influence upon the public opinion than elsewhere. If force is to be used during the conflict, the Georgian army with the help of the Georgian population in South Ossetia will seize the territory easily. Russian forces won’t be able to help the South Ossetians because they are separated by the Bezengi Wall. Only the Roksky Tunnel passes through it, but the tunnel can be easily blocked.
This conflict will result in the fact that about 60 thousand South Ossetians, the Russian citizens, will go to Russia. Russia will have to accept 60 thousand new refugees.
The Abkhazians will not leave Abkhazia. If to look at a map, one can realize that in the event of the conflict in Abkhazia the Georgian party is doomed to defeat, as has happened before.
This is why Abkhazia has a very good chance of becoming independent. A different matter is how it will be formalized. I believe that the Russian authorities are wise enough to understand this historical tendency and to do their utmost to help Abkhazia in gaining independence.
Nothing of the kind can be expected in Transnistria or South Ossetia. So, it will be reasonable for Russia to help Abkhazia become independent and to prepare legal groundwork for that. The final solution to the Abkhazian problem will be the recognition of Georgia’s absolute rights to the Kodor gorge and the Gal district. Now nobody in Abkhazia would agree with that. For the time being, few people understand that the compromise is needed. Transnistria and South Ossetia can reckon on nothing but the well-known status of the Aland Islands. The territory has extensive autonomy, its own State Emblem, flag, laws, the Swedish language, but, for all that, it belongs to Finland.
SERGEI MARKEDONOV, Head of the International Relations Department of the Institute for Policy and Military Analysis, Russia
The stir caused by the parliament hearings is misplaced. Dozens of such hearings take place a year, experts partake in the discussion and all of the resolutions are used as guidance. The State Duma does not take the foreign-policy decisions.
I do not think that Russia’s position is consistent. Suffice it to recollect the two recent events. On February 20, 2008 Geneva hosted the regular round of the Georgian-Russian negotiations on the WTO. The parties decided that the Georgian customs posts should be on the Russian-South Ossetian and Russian-Abkhazian frontiers. In some time Russia said that it would lift the sanctions imposed on Abkhazia, which became less severe seven years ago.
I am not of the opinion that what we are witnessing now is the conflict of civilizations, the conflict with the USA and the West. Above all, these conflicts have their internal dynamics. We better not forget about the population of those republics.
If to speak about the Kosovo case, this is a matter of identity and loyalty. If we withdraw the Russian peacemakers from Inguri and South Ossetia, will the Abkhazians and the South Ossetians be loyal citizens? No, they will not. This is also true of Nagorno-Karabakh that should be considered in the same context since it also raises the question of identity and loyalty. Will the Armenians, who number 100 000 in Nagorno-Karabakh, want to be Azerbaijan’s citizens?
Here Russia’s role, whatever it is, influences nothing. At the end of 1994 Russia closed the Abkhazian frontier for men of eighteen and older. Such a situation lasted about four years. Has that made the Abkhazians more loyal towards Georgia? No, it hasn’t. Then Russia’s position was double, but this did not make the Abkhazians more loyal. The factors of the USA, Russia and Kosovo are secondary. Kosovo started being discussed in the world context in 1998. The UN adopted the resolutions on Abkhazia in 1992-93. Transnistria became a self-proclaimed territory in 1990.
The issue of the people’s choice and loyalty is not examined.
It is impossible to solve Abkhazia’s problem without the Abkhazians. The Abkhazians are entitled to be heard. They do not become the second-rate people only because they do not want to take a foreign citizenship. So Russia’s strategy should not boil down to one question – to recognize or not to recognize. This is a primitivism.
The strategy is as follows. While the status issues are not solved, there is a need to favor the humanitarian development of those territories, the integration into the world economy and the world sociocultural relations. It is necessary to emphasize the interests of the people who live in those territories. One cannot solve, for example, the Abkhazian issues through Moscow. The Abkhazians will stand their ground.
The material is based on Dmitry MEDOEV, Guram GUMBA, Sergei ARUTYUNOV and Sergei MARKEDONOV’s addresses to the round table “Will the unrecognized republics be recognized?” in Russian News and Information Agency RIA Novosti.
March 19, 2008