Reconciliation Minister: Tbilisi Ready to Expand Dialogue with “the Abkhaz, Ossetian Societies”

Ketevan Tsikhelashvili, State Minister for Reconciliation and Civic Equality of Georgia stated on January 16 that Tbilisi has long expressed its willingness and is taking steps to expand dialogue with “the Abkhaz and Ossetian societies.” Noting that dialogue is “necessary,” Tsikhelashvili adds that there exist relevant “forms, spaces and issues” for such dialogue.

“The axis of our peace policy, among others, of new peace initiative “Step to a Better Future,” and, overall, engagement policy is that there should be a dialogue, cooperation over the common interests,” the Tsikhelashvili stated. 

The Georgian minister overseeing country’s Russian-occupied regions further added that fostering economic and trade relations among people is “very promising and directly addresses needs of the population” on both sides of the line of occupation.

“There is a space for dialogue about education, healthcare, environment, agriculture and other issues… It is doable to find proper forms [for expanding dialogue]…,” Tsikhelashvili said, adding that “this is an “unwritten chapter” of our peace policy, as many of the opinions, among them, in an informal manner, we have [already] discussed with the representatives of the Abkhaz society.” 

Earlier today, Georgian news agency Interpressnews released an interview with Aslan Bzhania, who spoke of dialogue between Tbilisi and Sokhumi as well. Bzhania, leader of recent protests in Sokhumi that was followed by Raul Khajimba’s resignation, is now Abkhaz opposition’s likely candidate for region’s snap “presidential polls.”

According to Bzhania, in long-term perspective “the two states” should have good-neighbor, equal and benign relations, while in short-term, they should restore trust. 

Moscow-backed Abkhaz leader Raul Khajimba resigned on January 12, soon after Russian President’s aide Surkov, overseeing Russia’s Abkhazia policy, arrived to Sokhumi to break Abkhazia deadlock. Earlier on that day, occupied region’s “election administration” announced snap “presidential polls” would take place on March 22.

Elections in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali regions are denounced as illegitimate by Tbilisi and the international community, except of Russia and four other countries (Nauru, Venezuela, Syria and Nicaragua), which have recognized the two regions’ independence from Georgia.

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