The messenger logo

New strategy for occupied territories

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 1
On January 27 the Georgian Government adopted a new state strategy towards the occupied territories called Involvement Through Cooperation. This is not a document which outlines the ways territorial integrity can be restored. It merely outlines ways that relations with the people living in the occupied territories can be maintained.

This document says Georgia has renounced the use of force to restore its territorial integrity and will try to involve all the people living in occupied territories in the processes and projects taking place in other territories of Georgia. Moscow is trying to transform the two occupied territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region into Russian military bases with the ultimate aim of isolating them from the rest of the country. Georgia has realistically accepted that no one will force Russia to restore the status quo of August 6, 2008, and the occupation forces cannot be forced to leave. Proceeding from this Georgia is trying to maintain the maximum contact with the occupied territories in order to prevent the isolation of those who live there and their detachment from the rest of the country.

To achieve this goal, as Minister of Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili has stated, Tbilisi is ready to cooperate with the occupiers and de facto regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali. Yakobashvili highlighted that in the document these entities are called 'controlling forces' and Tbilisi will talk to them in order to implement certain projects.

On January 29 the US, British and French Embassies in Georgia welcomed the new strategy of the Georgian Government and the position of the country’s leadership towards the new reality. They consider this strategy will facilitate a constructive approach to defusing the present situation and integrating the population of the breakaway regions in the global processes of the country. “We welcome this important initiative by the Government of Georgia. The Georgian strategy is a constructive step towards easing tension and reaching out to all residents of the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. We would encourage others, especially other regional players, to adopt a positive approach to the strategy and work to facilitate its implementation. In particular, we encourage Georgia and the regional players to establish an agreed framework to improve their mutual contact and communication. We look forward to the development of an Action Plan setting out practical steps for taking forward the strategy. We are ready to offer support for further efforts made to achieve visible progress in this process,” the British Embassy statement reads.

Of course Georgia’s commitment is positive and sounds convincing, but will the occupiers and the separatist regimes commit themselves to these proposals instead of trying to frustrate them? Yakobashvili states that the strategy targets the population, not politicians. So if the puppet regime leaders consider the welfare of their population the strategy seems very attractive. The trouble is, this is a big if.

The new approach seeks to intensify economic relations between communities separated due to the conflict by the new, artificial border. It envisages the rehabilitation and development of infrastructure which would facilitate different types of communication between the occupied territories and the rest of the country, including free movement and exchange of products and increasing the possibility of receiving healthcare and education. However it says nothing about security or status issues. These should be decided between Georgia and the occupiers.

The strategy has already been adopted by the Government and Yakobashvili will present it at the Council of Europe on February 3. It will also be submitted to the OSCE, UN and EU. Gaining the support of the international community is one of the principal targets of the strategy; this should be followed by appropriate legislative changes and other details.

The most important aspects of the strategy however are how consistent and well-balanced the steps to be taken by our Government will be and how far the position of the international community, and in particular Western countries, will convince Russia to allow its puppet entities to participate in the strategy. If this strategy means that the Georgian Government can redeem itself in the eyes of an increasingly distrustful West, maybe progress is possible.