In an opinion piece published on RFE/RL website on October 2, Salome Zourabichvili, leader of opposition Georgia’s Way party, laid out her vision on how “to move forward” following the report by EU-funded fact-finding mission into the August war.
Zourabichvili, who was among the strongest supporters of lengthy streets protest rallies this year to force President Saakashvili resign, writes that the Georgian President should be held responsible for launching “the military aggression against Tskhinvali.”
“If in the future we ever want to renew ties with the populations of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, whoever succeeds Saakashvili will have to address the consequences of his actions. We shall have to ask for forgiveness for the assault upon Tskhinvali,” Zourabichvili says.
“We, the opposition — if we are given the responsibility for Georgia’s destiny — will have to face up to the fact that, albeit to a much lesser extent, we too bear responsibility for not having more effectively opposed Saakashvili’s bellicose rhetoric and instincts.”
She says that question of return to Georgia whole of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is not the one that “can realistically be addressed at the present time.”
“It should and will be discussed at some future date as one component of a global discussion of European security. Abkhazia and South Ossetia will return to Georgian control only as part of a grand bargain between Europe, Russia, and the United States,” Zourabichvili writes.
She, however, says that the same does not hold true in respect of those areas within the breakaway regions, which before the August war were controlled by the Georgian authorities – upper Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia and Akhalgori district, as well as Georgian-controlled enclaves around Tskhinvali in South Ossetia. Zourabichvili says that Russia should be called on to fulfill its commitments under the ceasefire accords and to return to the positions it occupied before the war.
She also says that although acknowledging Russia’s share of responsibility in infringing upon Georgia’s sovereignty, “we should also seek ways to end this confrontation and start to rebuild a new relationship based on harsh truth, rather than on demagogic lies on both sides.”
In respect of Georgia’s western partners, Zourabichvili writes that from President Saakashvili “nothing less than real progress towards democracy should be demanded” and the western government should impose “strict conditions on any form of financial assistance.”