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About the term ‘occupation’

By Messenger Staff
Monday, July 19
The Georgian leadership is very optimistic that the term 'occupation' used by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the sense most desirable for Georgia will become part of the international diplomatic and political vocabulary. This does not mean that the process of deoccupation will begin soon but eventually the international recognition that they are occupied will be a guarantee that Moscow will eventually leave them. At least, such is the Georgian reading of the use of this term.

Vice-Speaker of Parliament Paata Davitaia, on leaving for Munich to attend the international conference there, promised to promote the use of the term 'occupier' in the standard operational usage of international organisations. The new rising star of Georgian diplomacy, recently appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Tornike Gordadze, also states that the term ‘occupied territories of Georgia’ will become an established part of the vocabulary of European diplomacy.

Georgian analysts and politicians keep repeating the terminology ‘occupied territories’ in the hope that this will give very serious support to Georgia’s legal demand that Moscow leaves its territory. Just after the Russian invasion of Georgia on 08/08/08 the international community used the term ‘excessive use of force’ to describe it, as if they were dealing with a one-off violation of international legislation. The term occupation means taking control of the territory of another country by putting your own soldiers and people there and therefore implies there should be international involvement in reestablishing that territory's legal status, thinks analyst Vasil Chkoidze.

Georgian analysts understand Clinton’s repeated use of the term occupation as a plea for the world to take this view. However just a few days after Clinton's visit French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner used the term in a rather more negative way. He said that repeating the word ‘occupation’ does not change anything and a political solution to the problem should be found. One word will not make the Russians remove their forces and return them to their prewar positions, added the French Foreign Minister.

Some sources, including, think that Kouchner’s visit was kind of a disappointment for Georgians after the optimism Clinton's words engendered. Some Georgian media outlets and opposition members are also sceptical about the exaggerated view Georgian politicians have of the importance of the word 'occupation'. Labour Party Political Secretary Giorgi Gugava thinks that occupation is just a word and does not change anything in reality. He also considers that Georgia should be deoccupied through the influence of all sides, including Russia as well as America.

Analyst Mamuka Areshidze thinks that the term 'occupied territories' will obviously create a certain discomfort for Russia and it is possible that Moscow will try and change its approach to the issue of the territories, becoming more flexible and less straightforward. However the vital question for Georgians is whether the use of any term or approach facilitate the withdrawal of the Russian forces from Georgian territory and begin the process of returning the IDPs to their homes. If Georgia ends up rejoicing over a word while nothing changes on the ground it is likely to base all kinds of worthless policies on this self-delusion, which will serve the interests of no one except those who don't really want to deal with the occupation of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region.