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To be or not to be in the CIS

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 19
From August 18, 2009 Georgia will no longer be a member of the Commonwealth of Independent States. Exactly a year prior to this date Georgia officially submitted its request to leave the organization, a process which takes one year under CIS regulations.

Georgia has always been against CIS membership but took no official steps to leave until last August when Russia launched a large scale military assault on Georgia, a fellow CIS member, and occupied its territories. Threatening to leave was a sort of protest action but was almost unanimously supported by both political parties and population. However some individuals recommended that Georgia should not to leave the organization, but on the contrary bring an internal CIS case against Russia as it had violated all CIS agreements by attacking another member country. This opinion was ignored, Georgia insisted on withdrawing and today against the background of bitter internal political developments nobody remembers the CIS issue.

Georgia’s former Ambassador to the CIS Zurab Khonelidze recently made a sensational statement. According to him remaining in the CIS is the only way for Georgia to restore its territorial integrity. In an interview with Kviris Palitra he stated that Georgia’s entry into the CIS in 1994 was a mistake but it would also be a mistake to withdraw from it. Georgia is losing more than it is gaining by doing this, thinks Khonelidze.

In all CIS documents Georgia is recognized as having its United Nations-acknowledged borders. Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as ‘independent states’ is just as much a breach of CIS regulations as occupying them is. Therefore as soon as we withdraw from the organization Russia will be rid of both its moral and legal liabilities towards Georgia as a CIS member. If Georgia withdraws from the CIS it will lose a serious opportunity to confront Russia directly in an international forum, where it would have been given the floor to do so. “What are we doing to help Belarus and other CIS countries resist Russia’s pressure by leaving?” asks Khonelidze. It has been reported that Moscow is putting serious pressure on Belarus to recognize the breakaway regions of Georgia.

The CIS’s political potential and access to its podium were arguments often used by Shevardnadze to justify the country’s presence in this organization, however our membership did not stop Russia committing continual acts of aggression against Georgia and neither did other CIS countries offer protection to Georgia, although it should be said that they did not approve Russia’s aggression either. Although many of them said something about this nothing would have stopped the Kremlin’s Tweedledum and Tweedledee from attacking Georgia. If the CIS offered Georgia anything it was the chance to complain about being attacked, not protection from any attack even by a fellow CIS member.

The EU is working with Belarus and other CIS countries on the issue of not recognizing the breakaway territories. The Georgian leadership is trying to establish bilateral relations with all the CIS countries except Russia. The CIS Executive Committee states that prior to withdrawing from the CIS Georgia signed 598 documents and 112 international agreements under its auspices. Despite withdrawing from the CIS Georgia can remain a party to certain agreements which do not specify that it has to be a CIS member to do so.

The Georgian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee thinks that Georgia has to resume negotiations with states which agree to continue having bilateral relations with Georgia after it leaves the CIS. Georgia has also stated officially that it will continue to be party to some of the agreements it signed as a CIS member. Now it is the CIS’s turn to make its decision about its own regulations, and what it should do about any member country which has breached them.