Will Moscow keep its word this time?
By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, October 18
The statement of the Russian Deputy Foreign Minister, Grigory Karasin, made after the thirteenth round of Geneva talks on October 14, concerning Moscow’s intention to withdraw its troops from the Georgian village of Perevi in Sachkhere region was assessed as a “positive move” in Tbilisi. However Georgian politicians and analysts have expressed doubt whether the Kremlin will actually keep its promise.
Karasin said on Thursday that the troops will be withdrawn from Perevi as soon as possible and described the decision as Russia’s “showing its goodwill.” “However this move is also a test of Georgia’s restraint and sense,” said the Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, adding, “This step is aimed towards normalising the situation and Tbilisi should think about what kind of policy it will pursue in the region.”
The head of the Georgian delegation to Geneva, Deputy Foreign Minister, Giga Bokeria suggested that Moscow might use the issue of withdrawing its troops from Perevi as a subject for political speculation. “They will try to portray this as a very constructive step. However I would like to stress that it [withdrawing troops from Perevi] is one very small part of the commitments that the Russian Federation has to fulfill. We hope that the statement will be implemented in reality and the de-occupation of Perevi will actually start. The de-occupation of any small village or territory is a very important positive event for us,” he told RFE/RL, adding, “However this is the only step towards the complete de-occupation of Georgia’s territory.”
Head of the analytical department at Georgia’s Interior Ministry, Shota Utiashvili also expressed his hope that Moscow’s words will not remain just words, saying, “If the withdrawal of Russian troops from Perevi really starts, it will be the first positive step towards the de-occupation of Georgia. Let’s wait and see if the promise will be kept. We have heard similar statements many times before, none of which have resulted in anything concrete.” He added, “The de-occupation of Perevi will be a relief for the local population, however Russia is not doing this just to please us, but because Moscow is facing problems with the international community because of Russia’s occupation of Georgian territories.”
Georgian Parliamentary Chairman, David Bakradze also expressed his skepticism about Karasin’s statement, stating “Russia’s decision is a correct but small step. Perevi is a small part of the August 12 ceasefire agreement. With the international community’s help we should manage to see that all the commitments set out by the document are fully met. Withdrawal of troops from Perevi is the right decision; however more important steps should follow this.”
Some Georgian analysts have suggested that the Georgian side should not think of the withdrawal by Russian troops from the village of Perevi is a special gift. Analyst Paata Zakareishvili said that sooner or later the troops should have been withdrawn from Perevi anyway. “Perevi is situated between two villages in Tskhinvali region – Sinaguri and Kardzmani. The road was constructed so that the Russian soldiers had to enter those villages via Perevi. Because of this they started constructing a new road and it was expected that the Russians would abolish their border post in Perevi after the new road was completed. I guess that this is the case now,” the analyst said adding that the Georgian leadership should continue calling on the international community to intensify the pressure on Russia to fulfill the commitments of the Sarkozy-Medvedev ceasefire agreement.
Russia has decided to withdraw from Perevi considering the international situation it has found itself in as a result of Moscow’s failure to fulfill its obligations following the August 2008 conflict, analyst Irakli Menagarishvili said. “Russia must find the international community’s critical attitude of this issue uncomfortable. It is obvious that Moscow is trying to show some constructive moves,” the analyst said, adding that no matter what the motive for the Kremlin’s decision, it should be welcomed.
The co-chairs of the Geneva talks Pierre Morel, Special Representative of the European Union, Antti Turunen, Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Georgia, and Bolat Nurgaliev, Special Envoy of the Chairperson-in-Office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe welcomed Russia’s announcement of the imminent removal of the Russian Checkpoint in Perevi. The co-chairs assessed it as a “positive development on the ground.” Antti Turunen of the UN said open and frank discussions had been held in Geneva with some encouraging signals.
The next round of talks in Switzerland is scheduled for December 16.