Georgian parliament muted after Duma pushes recognition for Abkhazia
By Christina Tashkevich
Monday, March 24
The Georgian parliament refrained from an immediate response after the Duma, in a March 21 resolution, advised the Russian government to consider recognizing the independence of two secessionist Georgian regions.
“After studying the Abkhaz and South Ossetian appeals, Duma MPs address the Russian president and government with a proposal to consider the expediency of recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” read the resolution, which is not binding.
The Georgian parliament is expected to delay its reply to Russia’s lower house of parliament.
“Georgia’s position would be pragmatic, as we do not plan to generate tension on the eve of the NATO summit in Bucharest,” Vice-Speaker of Parliament Mikheil Machavariani said the day of the Duma vote.
Georgia is campaigning for a critical membership nod at the April 2–4 NATO summit.
The chair of the parliamentary committee on Euro-Atlantic integration, Nino Nakashidze, said parliament would request a reaction to the Duma resolution from international organizations as well as the Kremlin itself.
“The reaction of Russian President Vladimir Putin is no less important for us,” she said.
Although the Duma resolution says it respects Georgian sovereignty, it also says that recognition of an independent Kosovo in February changed the rules of the game.
“Abkhazia, South Ossetia and [Moldova’s] Transdniester, which built democratic states with all power attributes during the period of their de facto independence, have many more reasons to claim international recognition than Kosovo,” the resolution argues.
Dmitry Medoyev, secessionist South Ossetia’s representative to Moscow, hailed the resolution as a beginning to full international recognition of his region’s independence.
“[The Duma resolution] will instill assurance of the future for all residents of South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” he said, according to Russian news agency RIA Novosti. “We expected it. The process of acknowledgement of the independence of South Ossetia and Abkhazia has begun.”
Russian MPs expressed concern over the security of Russian citizens in the separatist regions, warning Tbilisi that Georgian movement toward NATO may prompt Russia to take measures to protect its citizens, including the reinforcement of Russian peacekeepers.
Most residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia are thought to carry Russian passports; according to Medoyev, 97 percent of South Ossetia residents are Russian citizens.
The resolution reiterates recent Russian statements that Georgia would necessarily forfeit Abkhazia and South Ossetia by joining NATO, and suggested that even publicly striving for NATO membership is endangering the peace process.
“Duma MPs are unanimous…that the Georgian government’s line on full integration into NATO deprives Georgia of the possibility to consolidate territory and the people living there,” the resolution said.
The resolution asks the Russian government to make border crossing between the regions and Russia easier, and categorically opposes any withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers.
“The withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers may cause catastrophic consequences for the civilian population and destabilization of the situation in these regions,” the resolution warned.
A spokesman for the US Department of State, a strong backer of both Georgia’s bid for NATO membership and its quest to regain its secessionist regions, affirmed on March 21 that his government’s stance on the issue remains unchanged.
“We, along with others, support and believe firmly in the territorial integrity of Georgia as well as the right of the government in Tbilisi to exercise sovereignty over all parts of Georgian territory,” he said.