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UN envoy sees 'serious gap' in Georgia-Russia resolution

By Ernest Petrosyan
Monday, August 22
“There has been a serious gap in the process of conflict resolution and confidence- building after the 2008 August War”, said Dieter Boden, the former OSCE and UN Secretary General Special Envoy to Georgia in the interview to Interpress News, dedicated to further perspectives on conflict resolution and the possibilities of restoring trust between Georgia and its breakaway regions.

According to Boden the conflict resolution process was demolished completely and the process had to be restarted from the beginning again. “It was not an easy task, since the realities have changed. Abkhazia and South Ossetia have declared independence. Therefore, it was not simple to restart the process. I believe it requires extensive amount of time and it will be a rather long-term process. It will be slow since both sides have to rebuild mutual trust and look for ways of collaboration”, said Boden. “I think Georgia is facing rather complex challenges and problems. However, we should also keep in mind that there are a lot of regions in the world challenged by crisis, thus Caucasus is not top priority for the international community anymore. Thus, it will be difficult to attract the attention of international communities.” added he.

When asked about the attitude of Sokhumi residents towards the conflict Boden, based on his last unofficial visit to Sokhumi, says that after the 2008 August War and the limited recognition of independence the local society thinks that the conflict is over. They see Russia as the security guarantor. "I believe however, that it is early to speak about the end of the conflict. Problems in the region remain unresolved, as well as antagonistic relations between Georgia and Russia. This cannot continue endlessly. Communication and negotiations need to continue," said Boden.

Boden was concerned by the international isolation of Abkhazia, which remains isolated despite the recognition of its independence by some states. "I believe they should be given the opportunity to have relations with the rest of the world. We think that it is part of Europe and that is why we should make an effort to reach stability in this region", told Boden.

He also emphasised the importance to provide Abkhazians with an opportunity to travel abroad. "When I visited Abkhazia last year, I felt that they wish to travel to Europe frequently. I think that it is in everyone’s interest to allow this.”

Asked about the "Boden" resolution plan, the envoy assumes that his plan in the current circumstances and the new political realities is impossible, thus it cannot be implemented. "Initially there was a strong opposition in Georgia; while afterwards the situation in the conflict region was so tense that no one wanted to discuss the issue of the status. However, I still believe it was a missed opportunity. This plan could have significantly contributed to conflict resolution if there were a good will for this. Let’s hope that at least in future the situation will improve".

Concluding the interview, Boden considers the Russian factor as the most significant in the conflict resolution process and believes that the absence of Russian-Georgian relations is not beneficial for either state. "It is rather difficult to resolve the conflict in the Caucasus without Russia. Therefore, I hope relations between these two states will improve in the nearest future regardless of the remaining complex problematic issues that need to be addressed." said the diplomat.