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Analysts and politicians on united Caucasus initiative

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, September 27
Georgian President, Mikheil Saakashvili’s speech at UN General Assembly 65th Session and his call for “free, stabile and united Caucasus” sparked discussions in Georgia, with the Georgian ruling party officials saying that Georgia has a “clear vision” of region’s future development and the opposition saying that the idea of a free and united Caucasus is “unrealistic”.

“I came here to promote a specific vision- a vision for a free, stabile and united Caucasus,” President Saakashvili said in his address at the UNGA session. He called on the international community to help Georgia to secure peace not only in Georgia, but also in “our broader region.” “History has taught us that regions that were torn apart by armed conflicts and contaminated by hate – starting with Europe- can achieve lasting peace through cooperation, interdependence and unity,” Saakashvili stated “I strongly believe that a common market, shared interests, and political and economic interdependence will one day give birth to a united Caucasus. That is what I am calling for today,” he added.

It is time to understand that the Caucasus region has sufficient resources and potential for “all of us,” the Georgian president said at the UNGA tribune. “It is time to rely on ourselves, on the human potential of our citizens, to develop our own education system and to organize our own development. The Caucasus is one of the birthplaces of European civilization. It is time to show that the energy of our ancestors does not belong only to the remote past and that we have something to give to our children and to the world,” the President said “It is time to stop fighting and weakening each other and to realize that our strength consists in unity. It is time for unity and for peace,” he added.

According to Saakashvili, in the past Georgian citizens were perceiving Georgia’s border with the Ottoman Empire as an “absolute threat.” “Today we have passport free customs, joint airport and free trade with Turkey,” he noted “tomorrow, the citizens of Armenia and Azerbaijan will be able to cross our borders without passport,” the President said at the UNGA Session.

Georgian opposition leaders immediately reacted on the proposal of the President, with some of them saying that realizing the idea of free Caucasus in the global world is “impossible.” Kakha Shartava of opposition National Forum said that carrying out the idea of free and united Caucasus “cannot be implemented with current Georgian and Russian leadership.” “We can talk about intensifying inter relations between the separate Caucasus states under the influence of different states but free from the Russian influence, however realizing the idea of free Caucasus in the global world is impossible. First thing that we can reach is peaceful Caucasus,” Shartava noted.

Georgia’s former UN Ambassador and leader of opposition political party Our Georgia-Free Democrats, Irakli Alasania said the idea of united Caucasus is not a new one it does not belong to Saakashvili. “We know that the previous president of Georgia has the same idea and he spoke about this idea at the UN session as well,” Alasania stated “However currently Mikheil Saakashvili does not have sufficient trust from the international community in order to be handed the implementation of such a project,” he added.

Georgian ruling party MPs and the officials assessed Saakashvili’s proposal as an “important and serious strategic vision” of the development of the Caucasus region. “the country has a clear vision on how to become a leader in the Caucasus development issue,” Vice Speaker of the Parliament, Mikheil Machavariani told journalists “the problems in the region will not end unless the weapons is substituted with development and occupation is substituted with cooperation,” he stated.

MP Akaki Minashvili of the ruling National Movement Party said that the strategy of modernization and development of the Caucasus region is not “merely words.” “The address to Russia, as well as to the Abkhazians and Ossetians first of all is a message to the population and to the rationally thinking political groups,” the MP noted.

Georgia is an active regional player in terms of foreign policy, Georgia’s Ambassador to US Batu Kutelia said following Saakashvili’s speech at the UNGA session. “This is a country which is actively participating in solving all the problems existing in the European and Euro Atlantic space. We are trying not to confine our agenda on the UN tribune with Georgia’s problems only and to show all these problems in a broader context,” he stated, adding that this is the “only way” of solving both the worldwide and the regional challenges.

Some Georgian analysts suggest that by voicing the idea of a united Caucasus, President Saakashvili assisted starting discussions on peaceful Caucasus. “The initiatives on united, free and stabile Cucasus are very important for Georgia,” analyst Andro Barnov told Interpressnews news agency “these are the ideas which nobody can reject openly,” he said, adding that although the initiative is very important, it is more important how the idea will be implemented in the reality.

Analyst Gia Kukhashvili meanwhile assessed Saakashvili’s initiative on united Caucasus as “risky.” “When a person is saying something like this, he either does not have any idea about the situation on what is going on in the Caucasus and what the risks and challenges are there; or he is playing an obscure political game, which contains a huge risk,” the analyst told The Messenger .“If Saakashvili had talked about only South Caucasus I would not have made such comment, although it is impossible to happen even in the South Caucasus. But when you are making such a statement about the whole Caucasus region, it means that you are clearly challenging Russia,” Khukhashvili added.