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Georgia’s strategy on occupied regions discussed at Tbilisi-Moscow video conference

By Mzia Kupunia
Wednesday, February 3
Georgian Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili and Russian analysts Aleksey Vlasov and Felix Stanevsky discussed Georgia’s strategy on its occupied regions at a Tbilisi-Moscow videoconference held on Monday in the RIA-Novosti office.

On January 27 the Georgian Government adopted a strategy on its occupied territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia drafted by the Ministry of Reintegration which envisages restoring Georgia’s territorial integrity through peaceful means. The strategy is oriented on cooperation between people and not politicians, Reintegration Minister Temur Yakobashvili said at the video conference. “The issues on which we have focused in the document are impossible to politicise, as they do not have any political aspect,” he said.

The strategy is already working in real life, according to Yakobashvili, in particular in the fields of healthcare, education and trade. “The Georgian side is planning to further develop existing cooperation,” the Minister noted.

Speaking about ways of improving contacts with the people living in Georgia’s breakaway regions, Yakobashvili stressed the importance of restoring transport movement. “If it is possible to have a bus route in Kashmir, why is it not possible to introduce one between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, particularly when our role as a state is to become a guarantor for restoring relations?” the Minister asked.

The document has nothing to do to the Geneva negotiations, Yakobashvili added. “In Geneva we discuss issues related to Georgia and Russia, while the strategy document focuses on issues within Georgia. We are trying to find common ground with the people living in Georgia’s occupied regions,” the Minister stated. “We did not include security and status issues in the strategy document on purpose. These issues should be discussed only after the IDPs are returned to Georgia’s occupied territories,” he added.

The strategy might be good idea but it is at least 15 years too late, former Ambassador of Russia to Georgia and head of the Caucasus Department of the CIS States Institute Felix Stanevsky said. “You should have started drafting this document 15 years ago, at least after 1993. However the Georgian Government was focused on returning the territories by force,” Stanevsky noted. “If you want to restore cultural and economic relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia you should not do it in the way you are planning to, by oppressing and even driving Russia out of the regions,” he said.

No breakthrough can be expected in the negotiations between Georgia and Russia in Geneva, Director of the Information-Analytical Centre for Social and Political Processes in the Post-Soviet Region Aleksey Vlasov said. “Both sides stick to their point of view and refuse to change it. For the Georgian side Abkhazia and South Ossetia are occupied territories, while for Russia there are other realities on the ground,” the analyst noted. “This leads the negotiations into deadlock, and unless one of the sides agrees to make a fundamental compromise, the issue will never progress,” he added.

The Georgian Minister expressed hope that Russia would not hinder the process of implementing the strategy. “It would be very pleasant if Russia supported our strategy, or at least would not hinder its implementation,” Yakobashvili said. The Georgian Government is planning to draft an action plan based on the strategy document by the end of June, according to the Reintegration Minister.