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De facto Sukhumi wants “normal relations” with Tbilisi “but not with the current leadership”

By Mzia Kupunia
Thursday, February 17
Abkhazia supports having “normal, good neighbourly inter-state” relations with Georgia, the de facto Abkhazian President, Sergey Baghapsh said “however not with the current leadership of Georgia,” he noted. Speaking with the journalists on Tuesday, Baghapsh criticized Tbilisi’s position about Sukhumi. “Saakashvili can tell his tales about returning Abkhazia to Georgia to his audience in Tbilisi,” the de facto leader of Georgia’s breakaway region said. He pointed out that foreign diplomats, the representatives of the UN and EU had been “assuring” him that Georgia’s president was “big democrat who wants peace”. “However, being a realist, I was saying that Saakashvili wants war. In August 2008 everyone got convinced about my words,” he added.

Baghapsh slammed Saakashvili for making “contradictory” statements. “Speaking at the European Parliament, he was speaking about the inadmissibility of using force against Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and in about two weeks he stated that he will meet next New Year in Sukhumi,” the de facto President said, referring to the statement made by President Saakashvili on January 25 about meeting “next year in Sukhumi”. “The Jewish people used to always say so ‘next year in Jerusalem…’ all Georgians, all residents of multiethnic Georgia, including the Greek, Armenian, Ukrainian and Estonian people, who have been expelled from their own houses, should say ‘next year in Sukhumi…’ I will repeat this phrase until we return to our home,” Saakashvili noted. However, at the same time he pointed out that a plan on returning to Abkhazia should be based on “patience, and on the country’s development and enhancement of stability and security.”

During his q&a session, Baghapsh touched upon the issue of the property of Russian citizens in Abkhazia and the issue of giving compensation to the IDPs who were forced to flee from the region during the conflict. The de facto leader said Sukhumi will start considering giving compensations to the IDPs “only after Georgia pays USD 13 billions as compensation to Abkhazia.” Georgian authorities have repeatedly declined having any obligations to pay compensation to de facto authorities, saying that “if there is anyone who has to pay, it is the Kremlin.”

As for returning property to the Russian citizens, which has become a controversial issue within the breakaway region, as well as in Moscow and Tbilisi, Baghapsh said a special commission, set up to deal with the property debates is examining 118 applications. “6 of the applications have been considered as grounded, 16 of the cases have been sent for re-examination to the prosecutor’s office and to the court. All the rest of the applications were declined,” however he did not specify the reason for rejecting them. Earlier on January 14, the commission announced its decision not to discuss the applications related to property disputes in Abkhazia filed by the ethnic Georgian citizens. The decision was described as “fascism” in Tbilisi. Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze said the commission consists of “criminal gangs which are dividing the looted property” and that “the decision indicates Russia is not going to fulfill its commitments.”

Officials in Moscow have said Russia “defends the rights of its citizens, including the ethnic Georgians, equally.” Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov said that all legal claims will be satisfied. “We do not divide our citizens according to their ethnic belonging,” the Russian Minister stated.