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Prospects of reintegrating the occupied territories

By Messenger Staff
Tuesday, February 16
The Georgian territories of Abkhazia and the Tskhinvali region are occupied by Russia and have been recognised as “independent states.” Nobody, apart from Russia itself and three states it has bribed economically, recognises these artificial entities or their puppet regimes. However no visible attempts are being made to force The Kremlin to withdraw from these territories and thus reintegrate them with Georgia, to whom they juridically belong.

Under these circumstances Georgia has only a possibility of recovering its territory. Doing so will require very cautious, well-balanced and well-weighed steps, and even if these are taken no one can guarantee that these steps will be correct and yield some positive results.

Immediately after the August Russian aggression the Georgian Parliament adopted a law on the occupied territories. This law forbids anyone from doing business or entering those territories without Georgia’s permission. However this has not prevented Russia economically annexing them and separating them further from the rest of Georgia. Therefore the most important thing for the Georgian state at present is to maintain contact with the population of the occupied territories. This is the main target of the strategic document elaborated by the Ministry of Reintegration under Temur Iakobashvili. This plan was adopted and approved by the Georgian Government at the end of January.

The existing law on the occupied territories was submitted to the international community and the Government says that the West approved it. However nothing much has changed as a result. As for the new strategic plan, Georgia has already received recommendations from the Venice Commission. But although some details of the plan require amendment, not all the Venice Commission's recommendations will be accepted. The Georgian Government will not allow international organisations to work directly with the puppet regimes without going through Georgia for example, because this would be understood as indirect recognition of these regimes by the Georgian State.

The Georgian leadership is taking some additional steps in this direction as well. During Parliament Chair Davit Bakradze's visit to Turkey he offered that country the opportunity to take part in developing and implementing the strategic plan to resolve the conflicts on Georgian territory. Turkey's position is rather important for Georgia because alongside Russia's political and economic expansion into Abkhazia Turkish businesses have also started operating there. There are also around half a million people of Abkhaz origin living in Turkey, some of whom are considering returning to Abkhazia. Therefore Georgia has to take into account Turkey’s interests in the region.

There are different views of how Russia and Turkey will further their interests in Abkhazia. Some suggest that these two countries could cooperate but others exclude this possibility. Most probably the Georgian leadership will ask Turkey to oppose Russia’s attempts to integrate these territories into the Russian Federation. The idea that more engagement with Turkey will lead to more regulation of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict is being promoted by opposition leader Irakli Alasania, formerly President Saakashvili’s Special Envoy in Conflict Resolution. So we repeat that very cautious steps should be taken in this direction.

To sum up, we should admit that there should be no illusion that anything will be resolved in the near future. However as long as the Russian occupation is seen as part of a problem, rather than the solution of a problem, Georgia will retain a glimmer of hope.