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Saakashvili proposes Georgia-Russia security commission for Sochi Olympics

By Temuri Kiguradze
Friday, July 11
Yesterday President Mikheil Saakashvili proposed creating a joint Georgian-Russian commission to ensure security at the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics.

Russia dismissed the proposal out of hand, branding it “pointless.”

The Russian city of Sochi is situated around 40 kilometers from the Abkhazia conflict zone where violence has left at least four dead and more injured in the past weeks.

“We will be more than pleased to set up the joint committee with the Russian Federation on preparation of safe and successful environment for Sochi Olympics,” Saakashvili said at a joint press conference with US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on June 10.

He added that the committee would deal with “economic issues…cooperation issues, trans-border issues, immigration of the—you know, of the movement of people issues, everything that concerns Sochi Olympics.”

Neither Russia nor Abkhaz separatists welcomed the proposal.

Konstantin Kosachev, chair of the Russian Dumas’s international affairs committee, dismissed the initiative as “pointless.”

“Russia has the capability of providing security on its territory, including the security of the Olympic Games,” the newspaper Kommersant quoted Kosachev as saying.

The Abkhaz side said Saakashvili’s idea was “non-constructive,” and criticized the proposed committee for not including an Abkhaz component.

“Why did Saakashvili talk about a Russian-Georgian commission for the Olympics? Abkhazia is close to Sochi, so if [Saakashvili] wants to propose something realistic he should have proposed a Russian-Abkhaz-Georgian commission,” de facto deputy foreign minister Maxim Gvinjia told the Messenger.

He also said he is concerned that Tbilisi will try to solve the Abkhaz conflict with force before the start of the Olympic Games.

Earlier this week the EU’s top representative in the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, said that the Sochi Olympics may provide an opportunity for Russia and Georgia to cooperate on security issues.

“Sochi Olympics may seem far away, but fact that the planning and preparations for the Sochi Olympic are already underway, should underline this joint interest of stability,” he said at a July 9 press conference.

Georgian political analyst Ramaz Sakvarelidze said Saakashvili’s announcement was “unexpected.”

“If this initiative is accepted it may help solve the whole spectrum of problems in Georgian-Russian relations. In the year of the Olympics Russia will really be interested in a peaceful Caucasus,” he said.

In May the Krasnodar region of Russia, where Sochi is located, signed an agreement with separatist Abkhazia on cooperating on preparation works for the 2014 Winter Olympics.