Russians Coincide Withdrawal of Gudauta Base with Zhvania’s Visit to Moscow.
By Giorgi Kalandadze. Civil Georgia
“Meetings in Russian State Duma (parliament) were more constructive than we expected” – states with sense of satisfaction Zurab Zhvania, Chairman of the Georgian Parliament on October 26. Speaker of the Russian State Duma Genadi Selezniov shares Zhvania’s impressions. He mentioned, that often mass media misinterprets statements of the politicians. Zhvania’s visit ends on October 28, however it can be said even today that a new stage has started in Georgia-Russia relations.
The Russian side coincided beginning of the process of withdrawal of Gudauta (Abkhazia) military base with Zhvania’s visit to Moscow. Thus, Zhvania’s statement that official Tbilisi does not wish to ’empty’ Abkhazian conflict zone might be regarded as an answer to Russia’s steps.
Issue of presence of Russian peacekeepers on Abkhazian territory has been a central point of the meetings of Georgian parliamentary delegation in Russian Duma.
“We do not aim to leave the conflict zone ‘naked’ and thus contribute to destabilization in the country. However, process of return of the refuges to Abkhazia should start and negotiations with the Abkhazian side must become more fruitful. In this view, Russia is the most desirable mediator” – said Zhvania and added that the key to resolution of the conflict lies in Moscow and not in any other capital in the world. However, Zhvania also mentioned that the Georgian Parliament is not going to reconsider its resolution regarding the “Present Situation in Abkhazian Territory*”. Genadi Selezniov on his side expressed the hope that the Georgian side will not rush with decisions regarding withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping units from Abkhazia.
Leaders of the parliaments of the two countries meet each other on October 26. Georgia is an important strategic partner for Russia in principal issues – said Selezniov after meeting with Georgian colleague. These ‘principal issues’ are:
1. Adoption of the frame agreement between Georgia and Russia. Russia does not wish this agreement to be concluded.
2. Joint combat against Chechen “terrorists”, which considers, according to the Russian side’s interpretation, conduction of the military operations on Georgian territory, Pankisi gorge in particular.
3. Revision of the resolution of the Parliament of Georgia of October 11, regarding withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping units from the conflict zone.
None of the sides have changed their positions regarding these 3 issues, even though the date of meeting of Georgian and Russian presidents is approaching. Current negotiations in Moscow are kind of overture to the meeting on the highest level.
Current events in Abkhazia might affect relations of the two states in other aspects too, with connection to Chechen conflict. Russian officials have repeatedly offered Georgian side conduction of joint police operation in Pankisi, where Kist population and Chechen refugees reside. During the meetings of the Georgian delegation with the representatives of the factions of the Russian Duma, issue of combating the terrorism has been provoked. Vyacheslav Viloshin, leader of the faction “Fatherland – Whole Russia” stated that the Georgian government should have a firm position regarding the issue. He pledges that the time, when the West could support maneuvering with terrorists in a way Georgia did towards Abkhazia, has gone.
Genadi Selezniov assured his Georgian colleague that the Duma would ratify frame agreement between Russia and Georgia. The text of the agreement is being worked out by the foreign ministries of the two countries.
And in the end, meetings of the Georgian delegates with the factions of Russian Liberal-Democrats and Communists did not affect the latter’s position towards the plans regarding Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. On October 31, Russian State Duma is going to discuss draft of the resolution about activities of the President of Georgia.
*On October 11, the Georgian Parliament adopted a resolution on “Current Situation on Abkhazian Territory” which demands withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers from the conflict zone. The resolution considers immediate initiation before UN, OSCE and group of ‘friends of Georgia’ of the issue of deployment of international peacekeeping forces to the conflict zone. At the same time number of military observes should be increased and their mandate should be extended.
The document also states that “Due to unconstructive approach of the Russian side, that process of development of the document regarding the status of Abkhazia by the friend countries of Georgia has reached a dead end”. The resolution states, “Russia apparently acts as a side involved into the conflict and the function of the peacekeeping forces is limited to ‘enforcement’ of the border [between Abkhazia and Georgia]”.