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Georgia requests Moscow to engage in talks with Tbilisi

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, June 30
Tbilisi has officially asked Moscow to engage in talks with Georgia on alleged ethnic cleansing violations committed by Russia on Georgian territory during the past 20 years. Georgian Foreign Ministry handed a special note to the Swiss Ambassador in Georgia Guenther Baechler. With the note Tbilisi “invited Russia to participate in further negotiations to resolve the disputes that have arisen with respect to the Russian Federation’s responsibility for breaches of the UN Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination,” the Georgian Ministry said in a special statement.

Georgia’s request for launching negotiations follows the refusal of the International Court of Justice to hear Georgia’s case against Russia, citing that the ICJ had “no jurisdiction to entertain the application.” The Court upheld one of the arguments filed by Moscow that Georgia appealed directly to ICJ in August 2008 without trying to negotiate on the issues of Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination with Moscow. At the same time the Court rejected another argument of Russia that there was “no dispute” between the two countries over the racial discrimination of ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region.

The Georgian Foreign Ministry said that Georgia “took into consideration the ruling of the ICJ of April 1, 2011, in which the ICJ has established the fact of the existence of dispute between Georgia and the Russian Federation, however has indicated the necessity of holding direct negotiations between the two states in the framework of the above-mentioned Convention.

Some analysts have expressed their skepticism about the genuine motives behind Georgia’s request for launching negotiations with Russia. Speaking to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, representative of an international human rights organization Memorial, Kiril Koroteev said that Georgia’s aim is to go back to The Hague Court. “UN International Court practice clearly demands, that the negotiations between the sides should serve settling a problem. Negotiations should be sincere and determined to achieve some results. However at this stage it seems that the Georgian government wants to thwart negotiations instead of achieving success in talks. The Georgian authorities have clearly stated that they are starting talks in order to go to the Court again,” Koroteev noted.

However, the officials in Tbilisi have dismissed the suggestions of the analyst, saying that Georgian government’s obsession is not winning a case in the court. “We need a court just to settle the issues of returning IDPs to their homes and the de-occupation of Georgian territories more easily,” Georgian Deputy Justice Minister, Tina Burjaliani said “If we’ll manage to agree with Russia on these subjects without going to the court, we have no special attitude that we should go to court by all means. Simply, unfortunately, past experience does not give us a ground to be optimistic that Russia will engage in a constructive dialogue on these issues,” she added.

Moscow has made no official comment on Georgia’s recent request so far, however the Kremlin has repeatedly stated that it will only involve in direct talks with the Georgian authorities after the change of the ruling power in Georgia.

Georgian opposition leaders, meanwhile have stressed a need to “normalise” relations with Russia. Speaking to Moskovskie Novosti newspaper, leader of the Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania said that along with resuming Georgian-Abkhazian talks, Tbilisi should start thinking about normalizing relations with Russia. “Antagonist relations with Moscow delays Georgia’s integration with Euro-Atlantic structures,” Georgia’s former UN Ambassador said.