Russia-proposed draft of new treaty with Abkhazia on “alliance and integration” is being debated in Abkhazia with some senior officials in breakaway region expressing concerns over “losing sovereignty” and suggesting that the tabled initial text requires improvements.
Speaker of the Abkhaz parliament, Valery Bganba, said lawmakers’ reaction to the proposed text was “close to negative” as many of its clauses “are about losing sovereignty.”
Commenting on the Russia-proposed draft of the treaty, Bganba said in an interview with RFE/RL’s Russian-language service, Ekho Kavkaza, on October 14: “There are more questions than answers.”
He said that already existing comprehensive treaty on cooperation with Russia, which was signed in 2008, after Moscow recognized Georgia’s breakaway regions as “independent states,” already provides for all the necessary conditions for close ties.
“It simply required to be filled with substance and all the issues would have been solved,” Bganba said.
Asked what was the reaction of other lawmakers to this draft, when it was presented to them by Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba on October 13, Bganba responded: “I would not like to use wording like ‘negative’, but frankly speaking the reaction was close to that, because many points [of the draft] are about losing sovereignty.”
“Lawmakers, to put it mildly, do not fully agree with such version of the treaty,” Bganba said.
“In its current form, [the draft] is unacceptable,” he said, adding that the parliament will have many remarks to all the sections of the draft, except of its preamble, and will lay out its proposals within a week or two as requested by the Abkhaz leader.
Among the complaints over the proposed text, Bganba listed proposal to allow Russia appoint commander of the joint group of forces in the time of war or in case when there is an “immediate threat of aggression”; he also criticized proposal on “joint control” on movement of people, transport and cargo, not only on Russia-Abkhaz border, but also at at ports inside Abkhazia. He said that cargo entering into Abkhazia and not going into Russia should not become subject of control from Russian customs authorities.
“We all understand that integration with Russia is necessary, we understand that Russia is our strategic ally,” speaker of the breakaway region’s parliament said. “But at the same time it does not mean that we have to lose our sovereignty because of that. Therefore we will of course build our policy on strengthening friendship with the Russian Federation, but at the same time to have these relations on equal basis. It is not about big and small states, it is about two states and of course they have to sign treaties as equal entities.”
One of the issues which has also drawn controversy in Abkhazia is related to a proposal to set up a Joint Coordinating Center of the Russian and Abkhaz law enforcement agencies within a year after entry into force of the agreement for the purpose of fighting “crime and extremism” on the territory of Abkhazia.
Speaking at a meeting with council of young Abkhaz diplomats at the breakaway region’s foreign ministry on October 13, Astamur Tania, chief of administration of the Abkhaz president, said that the clause requires “substantial clarification.” The Abkhaz side believes, he said, that functions of this center should be providing by the parties “consultative” assistance to each other and exchange of information in fight against cross-border crimes.
Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia, political party led by Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba, said in a statement on October 14 that many clauses of the proposed draft treaty need to be “substantially” improved.
“Development and strengthening of relations with the Russian Federation remain the main direction of foreign policy course of the country’s leadership. Georgia’s aspiration to join NATO and European Union creates new threats for our state,” Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia said.
“There is understanding in the Abkhaz society over the need for a new treaty between [Russia and Abkhazia], which would reflect today’s realities.”
“The political party, Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia, supports the ideas in the part of formation of common security and defense space, interaction in foreign policy and social sector,” it said.
“At the same time, we think that clauses of the proposed draft of the treaty need to be substantially improved, stemming from the principle of equality of the parties and more clear separation of the spheres of their responsibility.”
“We express hope that the President of the Republic of Abkhazia, as a guarantor of the constitution, as well as the Parliament of the Republic of Abkhazia will take these circumstances into consideration and make necessary amendments and additions to the draft of the treaty thus ensuring compliance with the national interests of our country,”
“We are confident that the existing high level mutual trust between Abkhazia and Russia will help develop a balanced treaty, which will meet the interests of the parties and remove concerns, existing in the society over the state sovereignty of Abkhazia,” Forum of People’s Unity of Abkhazia said.
Amtsakhara, political party which was supporting ex-Abkhaz leader Alexander Ankvab, said in a statement that it has always been in favor of “qualitatively improving” relations with Russia and it is “not questioning brotherly relations with Russia and strategic alliance between Russia and Abkhazia.” But it complained that October 27 deadline for the parliament to put forth its proposals was too short and said that broad public discussions should take place before the parliament elaborates its remarks to the proposed draft.
“We are confident that we will be able to reach a consensus and only after that the Parliament will have the right to discuss the draft with taking into consideration opinion and desires of the people of Abkhazia,” Amtsakhara said. “As far as the draft itself is concerned, it should be fully and strictly in line with letter and spirit of the constitution.”