Tbilisi Plays Down Cooperation of Secessionist Leaders

Eduard Kokoity (left) and Sergey Bagapsh at the
latter’s inauguration in Sokhumi. February, 2005.
The Kommersant photo.
The signing of a communique on cooperation between the breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which the sides say will soon grow into a comprehensive agreement on cooperation, was downplayed by Tbilisi as “not serious.”

The Leaders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia – Sergey Bagapsh and Eduard Kokoity, respectively – met in the Abkhaz Black Sea town of Gagra on July 26 and discussed cooperation, as the sides stated, in all sectors of bilateral relations, including military and economic. The joint communique was signed as a result of this meeting.

Sergey Bagapsh said at a news conference after the signing of the communique that a comprehensive agreement between the two unrecognized republics will be signed in the South Ossetian capital Tskhinvali in “the immediate future,” the Abkhaz news agency Apsnypress reported.

“The singing of this communiqué confirms the unity and readiness of Abkhazia and South Ossetia to provide mutual assistance,” Sergey Bagapsh said.

At a joint news conference both Bagapsh and Kokoity criticized officials in Tbilisi for carrying out, as they put it, an “aggressive policy” towards the breakaway regions.

Eduard Kokoity, who reportedly is on vacation in Abkhazia with his family, said that Abkhazia and South Ossetia support the peaceful resolution of the conflicts. “But the ideology of fascism carried out by the Georgian side must be condemned by the international community,” he said, as reported by Apsnypress. He added that Georgia must recognize that it committed “aggression against our republics” in the early 90’s.

Kokoity rejected once again Tbilisi’s peace proposal, which envisages granting broad autonomy to South Ossetia, labeling it “aggressive.”

The secessionist leaders also called on Tbilisi to refrain from actions aimed at blockading the unrecognized republics. “Georgia tries to impose all forms of blockade – political, economic… We consider these actions counterproductive,” Kokoity said.

“It is impossible to hold talks and simultaneously be engaged in gangsterism and a piracy on the sea. We [South Ossetia and Abkhazia] do not have military bloc… but if [the situation] worsens it [cooperation] will grow into it [a military bloc],” Sergey Bagapsh said.

The Abkhaz side refused to participate in UN-sponsored Abkhaz-Georgian talks in Tbilisi on July 22 citing a maritime incident involving the Georgian coast guard’s seizure of a Turkish vessel transporting construction material to Abkhazia.

Meanwhile, officials in Tbilisi downplayed the meeting of secessionist leaders in Gagra. When asked to comment about these talks, Georgian State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Giorgi Khaindrava said on July 27: “I do not deem this meeting as serious, so I do not find it necessary to comment.”

“They [Abkhaz, South Ossetian leaders] are playing ‘statehood games’ so let them play,” he added.

He said that speaking about facts of human rights abuse of those Georgians who have spontaneously returned to Abkhazia, mainly in the Gali district, is now more important. Khaindrava also said that there are signs that Abkhaz authorities wish to sell the houses of Georgians, who fled the region after the conflict in the early 90’s.

“This is really concerning, but we are not reacting to this yet because there were only statements made by the de facto authorities in Abkhazia and we have no official decree about this decision [to sell Georgians’ houses],” Khaindrava said, adding that the situation in Abkhazia is similar to an “apartheid regime.”

He said that Georgian President’s representative in talks over the Abkhazian conflict Irakli Alasania, who is also chairman of the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, will brief the UN Security Council about the situation in Abkhazia on July 27.

Reportedly, Irakli Alasania will also submit to the UN Security Council Tbilisi’s draft of a joint Georgian-Abkhaz declaration, which according to Georgian officials includes guarantees on the non-resumption of hostilities. The document reportedly also deals with the return of Georgian internally displaced persons in Abkhazia. Details of this document remain unknown as of yet.

The Abkhaz side has also proposed to sign, as officials in Sokhumi say, “a peaceful agreement between Abkhazia and Georgia.” This is one of those several proposals outlined in a letter sent to the UN Security Council by the Foreign Minister of the breakaway region Sergey Shamba.

These proposals also include the singing of an agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia, which would guarantee the presence of Russian peacekeeping troops stationed in the conflict zone under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States, until the final resolution of the conflict.

Foreign Minister Shamba also urged that the Abkhaz side be given the opportunity to address the UN Security Council and present the Abkhaz position “in order to create more a unbiased picture of the situation” in the region.


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