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Tbilisi and Moscow welcome ICJ’s decision

By Mzia Kupunia
Monday, April 4
Georgian and Russian officials hailed the decision of the International Court of Justice which dropped Georgia’s appeal against Russia in which Tbilisi accused Moscow of violating International Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination (CRED) in Georgia’s breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The Hague-based UN Court of Justice said “it has no jurisdiction to entertain the application filed by Georgia on August 12, 2008.” The Court upheld one of the arguments filed by Moscow that Georgia appealed directly to ICJ in August 2008 without trying to negotiate on the issues of Convention on Elimination of All forms of Racial Discrimination with Moscow.

At the same time the Court rejected another argument of Russia that there was “no dispute” between the two countries over the racial discrimination of ethnic Georgians in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region. Official Tbilisi expressed its content with this decision “We welcome the Court’s rejection of a core argument put forward by the Russian Federation that no dispute exists on the grounds of ethnic discrimination and ethnic cleansing,” Georgia’s Deputy Justice Minister, Tina Burjaliani told journalists on April 1.

Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee at the Georgian Parliament, ruling party MP Akaki Minashvili said the ICJ “did not reject the case” but rather “stopped it.” “The stopping of the case was caused by one technical issue, which is related to non-exhaustion of resources for dialogue between Georgia and Russia. In case there is exhaustion of dialogue resources, the Georgian side will immediately be able to demand the resumption of the case,” he suggested “the judges have clearly stated that there is a dispute between Georgia and Russia (and not between Georgia and Abkhazia or Georgia and Tskhinvali region) on ethnic cleansing and ethnic discrimination issue,” Minashvili added. Meanwhile, National Movement Party MP, Goka Gabashvili said “it will be good if the Hague Court decision will push Russia towards dialogue with Georgia, if not the Georgian side will turn to the Hague again.”

Georgian Foreign Ministry also stressed the importance of the rejection of Russia’s second argument by the ICJ, saying that this decision “proves that the Russian Federation is the party intp the conflict with Georgia and not the third side, as Moscow has been trying to portray it for years.” According to the Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze “the most important acknowledgement is that the dispute related to ethnic cleansing is between Georgia and Russia.”

As opposed to the reaction of the officials in Tbilisi, the Georgian Foreign Minister, Grigol Vashadze, speaking to journalists at the UN headquarters in New York, said he was “very frustrated,” about ICJ ruling. “My impression as a lawyer is that – I am not speaking as a Minister now, but as a lawyer – the Court tried to find some reason not to examine the case,” Vashadze said, calling the argument of the Hague-based Court for not considering the case as “absolutely ridiculous.” “Georgia and Russia have been involved in bilateral and multilateral negotiations since 1991, when Russia launched an undeclared war against my country and citing non-existence of bilateral negotiations as a reason for not considering Georgia’s case is absolutely, totally ridiculous,” Georgia’s top diplomat stated on Friday.

Like most of the Georgian authorities, officials in Moscow also said they are “satisfied” with the decision of the UN Court. Russian Ambassador to the Netherlands, Roman Kolodkin said that “the case is won.” “The Court fully agreed with the main thesis presented by Russia. We were saying that the Court has no jurisdiction to consider this case. The case is closed,” Kolodkin stated.

Georgian parliamentary minority representatives suggested that the Hague court “found a diplomatic way not to make Russia an enemy.” “Everyone is trying to avoid irritating Russia,” MP from the Christian-Democratic Movement, Levan Vepkhvadze stated “it is not excluded that the Court decided that considering Georgia’s case would further aggravate the political situation between the two countries and that’s why this decision was made,” Vepkhvadze said.