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Pros and cons of appeal to North Caucasus Parliaments

By Messenger Staff
Monday, February 22
Against a background of strained relations between Georgia and Russia and no official relations at all between the two countries the Georgian Parliament is preparing an appeal to the Parliaments of the northern Caucasus nations which are part of the Russian Federation. The document will promote the unity of all people living in the Caucasus region with the aim of deepening political, economic, inter-confessional and humanitarian cooperation.

Those supporting this move think that such dialogue is absolutely necessary, as historically such links existed. Some analysts however challenge this approach, thinking that it will bring no results and only irritate the Russian leadership. In fact the first reaction of the Russian political establishment was indeed intense irritation.

A group in the Georgian Parliament will prepare a draft of this document in a couple of days. MPs also discussed this issue on February 19, when several remarks were made, and a final version will be ready in the near future. The initiative is supported by the entire Georgian Parliament and Nugzar Tsiklauri from the majority side thinks Georgian MPs will be able to establish direct links with the North Caucasus republics because they rather than the Russian Republic are the immediate neighbours of Georgia. Expert on Caucasus issues Mamuka Areshidze however thinks the initiative is simultaneously late and rash. It is late because the Georgian Parliament should have taken this serious step before and rash because now the Russian administration will not allow such contacts. Russia will do its utmost to hinder such activities.

On an official level the Parliaments of the North Caucasus republics will ignore Georgia’s initiative because they are part of the Russian Federation, but unofficially it might have some effect. However the Georgian side should be very careful, as contacts between Tbilisi and the North Caucasus entities could be controlled, monitored and instigated by Russian special services and lead to provocations. The Georgian initiative is seen positively by the Chairman of the Confederation of Caucasus peoples Zaal Kasrelashvili but he too thinks it is a bit late in coming. He also thinks that the idea of reviving interparliamentary relations between Georgia and the North Caucasus nations was his own and iwas stolen from him. He adds that the current political leaders of the North Caucasus republics are clearly pro-Russian and it is therefore possible that the Georgian Parliament is trying to contact Russia through this initiative.

Zurab Noghaideli, the leader of the Movement for Fair Georgia who has recently been in frequent public contact with Moscow on behalf of his party, is also irritated by the initiative. He thinks that this step could bring Georgia to yet another disaster. He thinks that Georgia has no right to conduct any kind of provocation which Russia could use to Georgia’s disadvantage. According to him such short sighted moves brought tragedy to Georgia in August 2008.

The Duma is very upset. Russian MP Sergey Abeltsev has said that this is an absurd document and nobody in the North Caucasus will respond to it. He called it an attempt to destabilise the Caucasus, but one which has no chance of success as Georgia does not know what is going on in Russia. Nobody will start a dialogue with Saakashvili because if the Russian President says that he will not talk to him the Ingushetian and Chechnyan President won't either, Abeltsev said.

MP Semon Baghadasarov has stated that the official administrations will not respond to this initiative and if Georgia tries to contact separatists Russia should take serious measures. This is more evidence of Russian double standards, promising to stop any attempt by Tbilisi to contact separatists while not only supporting separatists in Georgia and elsewhere but recognising their independence. But one is clear: the situation in the North Caucasus is very complicated and Moscow is well aware of this.

Of course Moscow is not happy, and its behaviour towards Chechnya twice at the end of the last century showed that it is prepared to take any possible measure against its own people if it considers this necessary. If it does, Georgia will likewise receive no mercy. So all the steps taken by Tbilisi should be very well thought out and balanced, and undertaken by those with the ability to do this.