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New strategy on occupied territories presented

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, January 29
On January 27 the Georgian Government adopted a document entitled 'State Strategy on the Occupied Territories –Engagement through Cooperation', in which Tbilisi’s vision of how to reestablish relations with the two breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is expressed.

“The key element of the document is that we reject any type of isolation of these regions. Their residents are residents of Georgia, so we cannot allow them to become isolated,” Temur Yakobashvili, the Georgian State Minister for Reintegration, said. The document states that contact with the residents of the occupied regions should be restored and concrete steps taken in economic, infrastructure and other directions. Roads are to be rehabilitated and transport problems resolved. The telecommunications system should also be made to work properly so that information can be disseminated.

The residents of the Georgian occupied regions should be involved in the delivery of these various projects, the document says. “We cannot allow a situation where the fate of the residents of these regions depends solely on the occupying power. We plan to take active steps to provide the local population with an opportunity to have normal education and healthcare facilities and engage in economic projects,” Yakobashvili said.

The document states that residents of Abkhazia and South Ossetia should take part in all international educational and exchange programmes available for Georgian citizens and a plan for making this happen will be worked out. Professional training programmes for the residents are also planned. The Government now has to develop a detailed action plan for implementing the strategy, a process which is expected to last about six months.

The new document is in the public domain and the Georgian Government is planning to introduce it to important international organisations. It has different means of making it available, and making its contents known, to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. "A working group is to be created, which will work on implementing the strategy. It is not known yet under which international organisation’s umbrella it will work,” the Minister said, adding that financing the strategy will not be a problematic issue. Some businessmen have already expressed a readiness to assist in this way and the state budget will also allocate funds.

Christian Democrat Nika Laliashvili has told The Messenger that the document is very important but the most important thing is implementing it. "We have participated in the creation of this document and think that it is one of the most important steps yet taken. We demand however that the action plan is as concrete and detailed as possible, including specific timeframes, as without real implementation of the plans mentioned in the document the strategy will serve no purpose,” Laliashvili said.

Kakha Kukava from the Conservative Party has called the document fiction. "There is not one word in the document about restoring Georgian jurisdiction over Abkhazia and South Ossetia. This is a disgraceful document, which practically accepts the loss of those territories. The main focus of the document is on humanitarian activities and contacts with the residents of the regions which cannot be implemented” Kukava told The Messenger.

Analysts have told The Messenger that adopting this document is a bit belated. "If this document had been created earlier we would have been able to avoid the catastrophe of the war of August 2008. I do not say that this document is bad, but it is belated,” Gia Khukhashvili told us. Ramaz Sakvarelidze said that the implementation of the strategy will depend on the political climate and Russian-Georgian relations. "The document itself is positive, as it is based on a peaceful strategy, but it would have been better for it to have been adopted earlier. Perhaps it will be implemented however if this is acceptable to Russia,” Sakvarelidze stated.