Lavrov visits Abkhazia
By Temuri Kiguradze
Monday, October 5Russia will provide military assistance to Abkhazia if needed, stated Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov during his visit to this Georgian breakaway region on October 2.
“The agreement on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance is a basis for the relations of our two countries [Russia and separatist Abkhazia]. The agreement stipulates that we can take any possible action, including giving military assistance, if someone once again tries to violate Abkhazia’s sovereignty and independence,” stated Lavrov in Sokhumi, as quoted by the Russian RIA-Novosti news agency.
This statement was made alongside an announcement of Russia’s plans to defend vessels going to and from Abkhazia to prevent them being detained by the Georgian Government. In 2009 Tbilisi has detained four cargo vessels travelling to Sokhumi on the basis of Georgia’s law on the occupied territories, which forbids any economic activity in Abkhazia undertaken without prior permission from the central Georgian Government. Russia has called Georgia’s actions “piracy” and accused Tbilisi of attempting to impose an economic “blockade” on Abkhazia, which Russia considers to be a “sovereign state.” The Kremlin has now stated that the Russian coastguard will protect the so-called ‘territorial waters of Abkhazia.’ The warship Novorossiysk already patrols Abkhazian waters, but Sergey Lavrov noted that Russian boats will not only be deployed near Abkhazian coast but provide an escort for cargo vessels for the major part of their voyage.
“Russia can monitor and escort ships in neutral waters heading to Abkhazia. We are certain that we can arrange escorts which would guarantee protection from these provocations," stated Lavrov.
During his visit Lavrov also touched on the issue of the recognition of the breakaway republics, underlining the importance of the fact that Venezuela has joined Russia and Nicaragua in doing this. He also commented on US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's remark that Washington would never recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. "If our U.S. partners are set on preventing the recognition of Abkhazia's independence, we will resist attempts to impose opinions on sovereign states. We have not launched any geopolitical projects - we are simply concerned for the security and safety of the people [of those regions]," the Minister said.
Tbilisi has already reacted sharply to Lavrov’s visit to Abkhazia, calling it a “cheap farce” and a sign that the Kremlin “continues its cynical policy begun in the 90s which led to the August Russian aggression and the occupation of the territories of a sovereign state.” The Georgian Foreign Ministry referred to the report of the EU-backed international fact finding commission which criticised Russia’s decision to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia soon after the Russian-Georgian war. “With his uninvited “visit” to the territory of our sovereign state the head of the Russian Foreign Ministry has once again proved that Russia doesn’t plan to respect internationally recognised regulations and principles. The norms of interstate relations and basic ethical concepts seem to be unknown to Moscow. However nothing else could have been expected from a senior politician of the occupying country,” stated the Georgian Foreign Ministry on October 3.