Sergei Shamba, former ‘foreign minister’ of Abkhazia, who now serves as the head of the security council of the occupied region, reiterated calls for dialogue with Tbilisi, asserting that “when there is a conflict, you need to talk.”
In a lengthy interview with RFE/RL’s Russian-language Ekho Kavkaza service published on December 18, Shamba discussed the deadlocked relations between Sokhumi and Tbilisi, underscoring that “enough time has passed” to talk about the enduring problems originated after the 1992-1993 conflict in Abkhazia.“
We do not know yet how Georgia will react. We simply declare that we are ready to talk and believe that diplomacy is the only possible way for our relationship today,” Shamba remarked.
In his words: “Obviously, we will not retreat from our fundamental interests. They [Georgians] will not abandon theirs either, but between these extreme positions there are always questions where compromise solutions can be found.”
Commenting on the criticism of civil society and political outfits over including dialogue with Tbilisi in the new Abkhaz foreign policy concept, Shamba said he does not regard such negotiations to be perilous for Abkhazia. Shamba insisted that threat comes not from the dialogue itself, but from the absence of it.
Diplomacy itself cannot carry any danger. If someone fears that the Abkhaz side may yield some of its principal positions through negotiations, then it is written precisely in the concept that dialogue with Georgia [proper] can be based only on mutual recognition,” Shamba Stated.
The Abkhaz security council head stated he does not see the majority of the Abkhaz being against the dialogue as “no one has conducted such a research.”
Shamba also named the topics which are currently discussed between Sokhumi and Tbilisi, and the possible steps that the parties can negotiate further.
“There are issues that are being resolved today in a bilateral format. These are questions related to the operation of the Enguri Hydropower Plant (HPP), this is the smuggling that is taking place today and cannot but worry us; there are also issues related to various criminal activities,” Shamba noted.
As for the further advancement of dialogue and cooperation between the parties, Shamba noted that Sokhumi and Tbilisi “could start talking about the opening of transport communications – a railroad, air traffic.”
“How to make these steps? There was a period under presidents Ardzinba and Bagapsh when the contacts between non-governmental organizations were quite intensive. It would be possible to continue some kind of dialogue at this level,” Shamba said.
The former ‘foreign minister’ also spoke of Nagorno-Karabakh saying that the main problem with the conflict resolution was “the lack of diplomacy” between the involved parties. “We have the same problem with Georgia: we have unresolved conflict that potentially destabilizes situation in the region,” he asserted.
Shamba stressed the importance of keeping the Geneva International Discussions (GID), noted however, that having one negotiation platform “is not enough.” “I support having a lot of communication channels. We cannot be content with the fact that we have the only medium of negotiations – the Geneva Talks. The point here is to find new, additional channels,” he noted.
Sergei Shamba said Abashidze-Karasin talks between Moscow and Tbilisi is an example of a negotiation format which could work in the Abkhaz-Georgian case as well.