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Georgia’s strategy on the occupied territories

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, December 17
Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region remain occupied by Russia and it can be assumed that this situation will not change in the near future. This is what the Russians call 'new reality' and what Georgians call 'tragic reality'.

Under these circumstances the Georgian leadership should put aside its emotions and concentrate on elaborating a long term strategy for the occupied territories and the aggressor Russia. It has become known that the Ministry of Reintegration is indeed working on this type of document and a couple of meetings involving analysts and political scientists as well as politicians have been held. The contents of their draft document are not yet known, but presumably it will be finalised by the end of this year.

Given the importance of this issue to the nation and to Georgia’s statehood, we think that this document should be very well thought out and become the basis of collective work undertaken with collective responsibility, as resolving this problem could take more than one generation. A consensus between different political parties on the content of this document, and the work which will be undertaken as a result of it, is required. Most importantly, the people of Georgia must also support it and consolidate behind it. The document will have little value if it needs continual amendment, as it would be at the whim of political fashion rather than a set of principles standing above it. .

Minister Temur Iakobashvili thinks that this document will be adopted after some consensus has been reached. We can judge what the document look like by some of the comments from those who have attended the meetings concerning it, however sometimes these statements are very controversial and differ from each other. For instance, the Rezonansi newspaper says that one of the participants has apparently said that we should avoid using the term ‘occupied territories’ because Sokhumi and Tskhinvali don't like it and declare that this is not only a conflict with Russia but with Ossetians and Abkhaz. This is an absolutely unacceptable position for Georgia, as it involves making huge and unjustified concessions to Russia, accepting the rules of the game imposed by Moscow. But what is the alternative?

Minister Iakobashvili has stated that the major goal of the Georgian strategy is to establish sound relations with the people living in the occupied territories, regardless of their ethnic or political sympathies. He suggests that people living in the occupied territories should be involved in producing the final draft of the document, though it is very difficult to see how this might happen. The authors of the document say that Sokhumi and Tskhinvali de facto regime representatives should also be involved, an idea which might be described as 'crawling recognition'. Iakobashvili has suggested holding negotiations with representatives of the occupiers as well, to see if mutual interest can be found, however he adds that it is premature to speak about this in detail.

Analyst Irakli Sesiashvili thinks that the strategy for the occupied territories should not be about returning historic Georgian land or resolving the conflict which exists today. But this does not mean that we should give up, he said. The strategy cannot regulate the present conflict but it should determine our country’s policy towards the occupied territories and include establishing some kind of relations with the local population with the aim of restoring confidence between the Georgian and Abkhaz and Ossetian peoples. Of course it is easy to state what do you want to achieve and very difficult to work out how to do it, but the most important thing here is to ensure that this strategy has an inbuilt practical application. It should not be drawn up as a stand alone document and left on a shelf. It should present a viable proposition to all those interested in restoring the occupied territories to Georgia.