Russia wants to make Georgia sign “non-aggression” agreement
By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, May 18
The Georgian delegation has left for Geneva to participate in the fifth round of the international negotiations between the parties to the August conflict in Georgia.
Georgian, Russian and de facto South Ossetian diplomats and representatives of international structures will discuss ways to decrease tensions in the conflict region on May 18 and 19. The Georgian delegation, led by Deputy Foreign Minister Giga Bokeria, will provide information on the “real situation in the conflict zones” and the problems ethnic Georgians are facing in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “We are going to talk about ways to protect the rights of refugees and the people of [Abkhazian ethnic Georgian region of] Gali. We will talk about the forced passportization, the driving out of Georgian monks from Kodori Gorge and international control over the conflict zones,” stated Malkhaz Akishbaia, head of the Tbilisi-backed Abkhazian Government-in-Exile, talking to Georgian journalists on Sunday.
Russia has also prepared several proposals for the Geneva discussions, one concerning a “non-aggression” agreement that Moscow wants Tbilisi to sign with the separatist authorities. According to an official statement by the Russian Foreign Ministry, this agreement will provide “firm guarantees for preventing aggression and the non-resumption of military hostilities by Tbilisi against its neighbours in the region.” The Kremlin is also reviving its proposal to place an international embargo on selling offensive weapons to Georgia. “Calls to restore territorial integrity by force, something which was lost as a result of the irresponsible policies of the Georgian leadership, are still being made in Tbilisi,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on May 17. It also accused Georgia of installing “new fortifications and observation posts” and of increasing its military presence in the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “All this happens against the background of a deep internal political crisis, to which the present Georgian leadership has led its country,” the statement reads. “It’s not a surprise that in these circumstances the Georgian leadership tries to distract public attention from pressing internal problems by artificially creating dangerous external threats.”
Several days ago it was announced that the de facto Abkhazian authorities will not participate in the negotiations. “Yes, that’s true, we’re not going to Geneva,” de facto Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba told The Messenger on May 17. However he refused to specify the reasons behind this decision. Malkhaz Akishbaia responded to this news by saying, “The presence or absence of the Abkhazian side at the Geneva talks doesn’t mean anything for us. We have to do a lot to provide the representatives of international organizations with objective information on the processes taking place in the conflict zone.”
“The next round of Geneva discussions will not bring any concrete results,” considers Georgian conflict expert Malkhaz Chemia. Talking to The Messenger, Chemia stated that the Geneva talks are “just another part of the big confrontation between Russia and Europe.” “Russia will just confirm its previous position and block any attempts to change the status quo in the region. Considering the fact that Europe still depends on Russia, it seems that Russia will again manage to get away with this. No new decisions will be made. I think that the sides will work on preserving the agreements reached at previous meetings,” Chemia says.
The Geneva negotiations were established under the ceasefire deal signed after the 2008 August Georgian-Russian war. They involve representatives of Georgia, Russia, separatist South Ossetia and Abkhazia, the EU, the OSCE and the UN. The first three rounds produced no concrete results, however the sides managed to sign a document concerning “incident prevention mechanisms” at the fourth meeting. Direct meetings between representatives of Georgia, breakaway South Ossetia and Russia on Georgian territory were instituted by this document.