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Abkhazia: New President Sworn In

By Ernest Petrosyan
Wednesday, September 28
The inauguration ceremony of the newly elected separatist President of Abkhazia Alexander Ankvab was held in Sokhumi on September 26. The inauguration ceremony, held in the conference hall of the presidential administration, which lasted for half an hour, was modest due to the death of the previous separatist president Sergey Bagapsh, whose spouse was also among the guests. The ceremony was attended by the speaker of the Russian Federal Council, Valentina Matvienko, who delivered a speech on behalf of the Russian President Medvedev officially inviting Ankvab to Moscow. Among other officials attended the ceremony were the MPs of the Abkhazian de-facto parliament, the Supreme Court and central election commission representatives.

“I am taking an oath in front of the multinational Abkhazian people, that I will use my knowledge and strength for the prosperity, peace and tranquility of the Abkhazian people. In my activity I will strictly follow the constitution and demands, and be the guarantor of the rights and freedoms of all Abkhazian citizens,” said Ankvab taking an oath.

During his inaugural speech the de-facto president mostly focused on domestic issues saying that apart from low income, “citizens are dissatisfied with the criminal situation, judiciary, illegal drug trafficking and the growing number of drug-addicts, as well as with the situation in education and healthcare sectors, and the quality of work of local governance bodies." He pledged to implement reforms in police, education and social fields.

Ankvab also announced several foreign policy priorities. The first priority he said was the “dynamic development of a comprehensive strategic partnership with the Russian Federation” in the frame of which “Abkhaz-Russian inter-state relations will deepen." He also pledged the continuation of diplomatic efforts regarding the broadening of international recognition of the independence of the so-called Abkhaz republic.

“The issues of security and defense in our relations are especially important. This is conditioned by the wish for revenge in the current Georgian government. Thus, it is noteworthy that the existence of the Russian united 7th military base in Abkhazia is crucial for the security and sovereignty of our countries”, said the speaker of the Russian Federal Council, Valentina Matvienko.

Some were hopeful in Georgia that Ankvab would favor the dialog with Georgia. However, against the background of Russian- Abkhazian military cooperation and the statements of Matvienko regarding the wish for revenge in Georgia, this hopes effectively dissolved.

According to the former Security Minister of Abkhazia, Levan Kiknadze, Ankvab was against conflict with Georgia. He assumes that as a politician Ankvab might want dialogue with Georgia, though he also says that the Russian factor as well as the concerns of the Abkhazian community will hinder this initiative.

“He indeed will not make such steps and start talking with Georgian authorities even if he would like to. He has to prepare the ground for it. He himself may have the desire to restore relations with Georgia,” assumes Kiknadze.

The Chairman of the Abkhazian Supreme Council of Abkhazia, Gia Gvazava, presumed that Europe might provide economic support, namely, to make European investments via Tbilisi. Though he cast doubt on Russia supporting this initiative.

Yet, he noted that according to Ankvab’s pre-election campaign statement – no involvement without recognition - it is obvious that the cooperation of EU institutions with his administration will not be easy. “They [the EU] wanted to involve us in something, only considering Georgian interests and never considering Abkhazian interests,” said Ankvab.