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EU Diplomat Speaks of Conflicts in Georgia

The conflicts in Georgia are “a regular feature” of EU-Russia political dialogue, the EU’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, said in Tbilisi on June 11. 

Change in the negotiating and peace resolution formats vis-a-vis the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts, however, were not, he said, focus of these discussions at this stage.

Tbilisi has been pushing for changes to the Russian-led negotiating formats, hoping to see an increased western involvement to counterbalance Russia’s dominant role.


Semneby, a Swedish diplomat who serves as EU’s Special Representative since last February, says that the European Union “is only beginning to become involved earnestly” in confidence-building measures to help resolve the conflicts in Georgia and this in itself means that the EU is taking “a more political role.”

He was in Sokhumi on June 11 to discuss with the Abkhaz leadership, what he called, a package of EU-proposed measures that are designed to boost confidence between the sides. The proposal was drafted as a result of an EU fact-finding visit to Abkhazia in January 2007, which looked into possibilities of how the breakaway region could benefit from the EU’s Neighborhood Policy (ENP) with Georgia.

Semneby said the Abkhaz side “is open to continue working on these measures.” 

“We had long discussions about these different measures and my impression after these long discussions – they were not easy, but they are ultimately very productive – is that the Abkhaz side realizes that this package of measures are of interest to the Abkhaz side,” he said.

The Abkhaz, however, reported on June 11 that they were ready to consider the EU-proposed measures only after Tbilisi had pulled out its forces and its “puppet government” from upper Kodori Gorge in the breakaway region. These demands also constitute pre-conditions for the resumption of talks with Tbilisi.

The EU envoy said that the absence of dialogue between Tbilisi and Sokhumi was “very problematic” and was a source of concern for the international community.

“Dialogue itself should not be the objective of negotiations,” Semneby said.

South Ossetia

Although a change in the negotiating format is not currently the focus of discussions, Semneby said the creation of a new “political body” to work alongside the existing quadripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC) in South Ossetia could be helpful.

“We do not really have a format that has political weight to bring conflict resolution. The JCC is doing a lot of work, but that body has been designed to manage the ceasefire and that is a limitation,” he said.

“That does not mean that the JCC needs to be abolished; it still can be a body that can administer the ceasefire, but with a political body in addition to it,” Semneby added.

He reiterated, however, that this was not a priority at this stage.

“The focus [of discussions] is concrete measures in order to bring the parties together to establish links of communications… The main issue is the will of interested parties to move together and to put their political weight behind the solution and once that is the case then I think the format issue will perhaps more or less resolve itself,” Semneby said.

‘Focusing on Personalities not Helpful’

In an attempt to shake up the status quo and gain some political traction in South Ossetia, Tbilisi set up its loyal provisional administration in the region. It’s headed by Dimitri Sanakoev, who before 2001, served in high level positions in the secessionist South Ossetian government in Tskhinvali.

Semneby said that although the EU sees Sanakoev as being part of South Ossetian society, it would “not be helpful” to put an emphasis on any one personality.

He said, “it is not a matter of creating institutions around a person,” but it is important to create an institution that is based on “the fundamental aspirations and desires” of the South Ossetian population.

“The most important part that makes the Georgian proposal interesting in the eyes of Georgia’s partners is the part that involves a comprehensive dialogue with, or within Ossetian society. And if such a dialogue takes place that is what makes this proposal of interest to others and that would enable Georgia to finally gather support around this proposal,” the EU envoy said.

“The key here is not Sanakoev or [South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard] Kokoity, but whether Georgia is able through its proposal to reach out to all parts of Ossetian society, those living in Tskhinvali as well,” he added.


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