The messenger logo

Special status for Abkhazia

By Messenger Staff
Friday, November 6
The Minister for Reconciliation and Civil Equality of Georgia, Paata Zakareishvili, has stated that one of the options for settling the conflict with Abkhazia, one of Georgia's breakaway territories, might be offering special status to the region within Georgia.

The Minister stated that the major aim of the current Georgia leadership was to protect both the “political and civil rights” of the Georgian population living in the de-facto republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia (Tskhinvali).

“Georgia is ready to discuss the issue and we already have visions and opinions as to how the Georgian constitutional order might be, wherein Abkhazia will have special status.

“We have worked on the issue and even discussed the topic with our opponents. Thus, we are open in this regard,” the Minister said, adding that European standards and attitudes concerning the new constitutional arrangement of Georgia would be very important.

Zakareishvili also stated that the current Georgian state leadership managed to somehow encourage a positive relationship between Tbilisi and the populations of the de-facto independent regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

The Minister also stressed that the population of the de facto regions of Georgia were becoming gradually positive towards Georgia, and the number of the breakaway regions’ residents visiting Georgia for touristic, educational, business or other purposes has recently increased.

The status of Abkhazia is a central issue of the Georgian–Abkhazian conflict. The wider region formed part of the Soviet Union until 1991. As the Soviet Union began to disintegrate towards the end of the 1980s, ethnic tensions grew between the Abkhaz and Georgian populations over Georgia's moves towards independence. This led to the 1992–1993 War in Abkhazia that resulted in a Georgian military defeat, the de facto independence of Abkhazia and the mass exodus and ethnic cleansing of the Georgian population from Abkhazia. In spite of the 1994 ceasefire agreement and years of negotiations, the status dispute has not been resolved, and despite the long-term presence of a United Nations monitoring force and a Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping operation, the conflict has flared up on several occasions. In August 2008, the sides again fought during the South Ossetia War, which was followed by the formal recognition of Abkhazia by Russia, the annulment of the 1994 ceasefire agreement and the termination of the UN and OSCE missions.

Georgian analysts frequently state that unlike the Tskhinvali de-facto region, Abkhazia is less influenced by the Russian Federation.

Abkhazians state that they want independence, but this independence should also entail independence from Russia. However, it has been stated that Abkhazians are slowly coming to realise that Russia never intended to grant complete freedom to Abkhazia's people. Russia needs the area even without the Abkhazian natives. Russians are settling in the region, and it is forecasted that in the near future, the Russian population will outnumber that of the locals.

However, if Abkhazians decide that it is better for them to be with the rest of Georgia again, Georgia should be economically and politically ready for this.

There is a great possibility that if the Abkhazians do decide to rejoin Georgia, Russia will not tolerate their decision: Russia is not a peacekeeper there; Russia is a conqueror.

Zakareishvili’s statement was worth mentioning as Georgia should try every possible way to reintegrate the lost territories. However, the offer should be clear, and be a product of deep consideration and thought, with terms that are acceptable for both sides.