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What does Bodenís visit mean?

By Messenger Staff
Thursday, March 18
The Georgian media expressed great interest in the recent visit to Georgia of well-known German diplomat Dieter Boden, who first made a private visit to Sokhumi to give a lecture at the university there and then came to Tbilisi. His reappearance in the country reminded everyone of the so-called Bodenís Plan, an idea he floated publicly a few years ago that Georgia should become a federal state. Certain newspapers even published articles under the headline "Return of Bodenís Plan".

Georgian analysts and journalists are trying to guess what Boden's reappearance means. In 1995-96 the German diplomat headed the OSCE mission in Georgia and in 1999 he became Special Representative of UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Regulating the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict. After more than two years in this position he produced Bodenís Plan, under which Georgia and Abkhazia sides would have specified rights as common members of a federation. Abkhazia's status would be determined on the basis of it being part of independent Georgia. This plan was not much welcomed in Tbilisi and Sokhumi was radically opposed to it. It is not much of a guess to realise that Moscow also rejected this plan because it did not want to regulate this conflict or any others in the region.

Today the implementation of Bodenís Plan seems even more unrealistic than it did 10 years ago. Maybe his reappearance is an attempt by the EU to study the situation on the ground informally and try to intervene in the process of conflict regulation more actively. At least this is how the Georgian authorities, analysts and the population see it, whether or not think is no more than wishful thinking.

Vice Speaker of Parliament from the opposition Paata Davitaia has stated that the position of the EU is transparent and clear. It does not recognise the breakaway regions as independent countries, as we know. But it is important that European structures keep discussing Georgiaís territorial integrity. While in Sokhumi Boden mentioned that he wants to contribute to establishing stability in the Caucasus. "It is impossible not to be interested in Abkhazia and generally the Caucasus region. It is of interest not only to me but all Europeans, and this interest is much stronger than it has ever been," stated Boden.

Boden also said that he considered the Geneva talks very important despite the fact little or no progress has been achieved at them. We can therefore conclude that the major reason for his visit was not to determine the status of Abkhazia but maintain and establish cultural, educational and academic links between it and Europe. Sokhumi acknowledges the necessity of establishing and developing such links, but everyone more or less familiar with the current situation in the region will agree that these sort of links can only be made if they are under the strict control of The Kremlin, as Russia will not let anyone or anything compromise its dominance of this Georgian region.

Moscow will do its best to ensure that all Abkhazia's links with outside world are conducted through Russia. Whether this arrangement forms part of a second Boden's Plan we will have to see.