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NGOs Call on Government to Have Realistic Policy to Russia

By Gvantsa Gabekhadze
Friday, March 16
Twelve leading Georgian NGOs have released a joint statement, saying that the Georgian Dream leadership has an “unclear” policy to Russia and call on the authorities to change the strategy.

The NGOs believe that the government of Georgia chose an “ambiguous way” of communication when it tried to return back the body of Archil Tatunashvili, Georgian soldier who died in unclear circumstances in the occupied Tskhinvali region on February 23.

Transparency International Georgia, International Society for Fair Elections and Democracy, Atlantic Council of Georgia, Georgian Young Lawyers' Association and several others claim that the Georgian Prime Minister Giorgi Kvirikashvili’s most recent statement in which he calls on Russia to have a "constructive approach" to the direct dialogue with Abkhazians and Ossetians in the context of Geneva International Discussions, “was difficult to understand”.

“The expectation, if such exists, that Russia will suddenly change its approach to Georgia and start carrying out responsible policy is exaggerated. This is why this statement does not correspond to the prevailing state of affairs and rather resembles a statement by a government which does not have a concrete plan of addressing the challenges of Georgian-Russian relations,” the NGOs said.

The NGOs say that the Russian response to the appeal of the Georgian Prime Minister to settle Tatunashvili’s case through joint efforts was of both cynical and threatening content rather than a positive response to the cooperation offered.

Russia responded that settling the issue of handing over of Tatunashvili’s body was “beyond their competence” and that Georgia should have a direct dialogue with Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, Georgia’s two occupied territories, to address such cases.

The NGOs say that after the Russian response the PM also made an ambiguous statement and stressed that the Russian response “left room for negotiations.”

The NGOs also tackled upon the government members’ controversial statements over the change of the format of the Geneva International Discussions, the only international format addressing Georgian conflict issues since the Russia-Georgia 2008 war.

“The existing format of Geneva negotiations is an important platform in which Georgia's international partners participate. This format allows Georgia to try and peacefully settle the Russian-Georgian conflict together with the United States, the European Union, the United Nations and the OSCE,” the NGOs stated.

They stressed that the so-called Abashidze-Karasin format initiated by Georgia [in 2013, under the Georgian Dream leadership to speak with Russia only on economic issues] could not replace the Geneva Discussions, as Abashidze-Karasin meetings were closed to media and lacked transparency.

The NGOs called on the Georgian government to provide the public with concrete information about the vision of addressing the prevailing challenges and the corresponding plans with regard to future relations with Russia.

The NGOs welcomed the discussion in Parliament concerning the adoption of an extraordinary resolution against Russia.

“We call on the parties to put aside their disagreements and join their efforts as soon as possible to pass a resolution defending Georgia's interests which, in addition to evaluating the actions of the occupying regime,” the NGOs added.

The majority claims that 95 percent of the resolution text has been agreed with the opposition.