GEORGIA FOR THE GEORGIANS?
by Oleg Gorupai, translated by A. Ignatkin
Source: Krasnaya Zvezda, July 28, 2007, p. 3
DEFENSE and SECURITY
August 1, 2007 Wednesday
MIKHAIL SAAKASHVILI'S POLICY AGGRAVATES ETHNIC PROBLEMS IN GEORGIA;
President Saakashvili's policy mounts ethnic tension in Georgia and
Tbilisi invited Tskhinvali to attend a meeting of the state commission
for determination of South Ossetian status within Georgia.
State Minister for Conflict Settlement, David Bakradze, said he had
already cabled the invitation to Tskhinvali. The state commission
was established on President Mikhail Saakashvili's order. Chaired by
Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli, it includes Interior Minister Gela
Bezhuashvili and some other heads of ministries and departments.
South Ossetia declined the invitation as "groundless", to quote
Foreign Minister Murat Jioyev. "Trying to persuade the West that they
too contribute to the process of conflict settlement, the Georgian
authorities are simply aggravating Georgian-Ossetian relations,"
Regardless of what Tbilisi might be claiming, Moscow never received
any cables from it concerning work on the status of South Ossetia,
according to Ambassador-at-Large, Yuri Popov, who represents the
Russian Federation in the Joint Control Commission. Commenting on
Nogaideli's promise to invite the EU and government of Russia to
participate, Popov said, "Actually, I'm not sure at all that Russia
will want participation because it implies the necessity to negotiate
with Dmitry Sanakoyev, the head of the provisional administration...
Moscow does not regard Sanakoyev as a participant in the talks."
Russia is convinced that no negotiations over the Georgian-Ossetian
conflict settlement or status of South Ossetia are possible without
the actual involvement of the South Ossetian side.
The matter was discussed by President of South Ossetia, Eduard Kokoity,
and OSCE Chairman's Envoy, Jose Barella, who told the South Ossetian
leader he knew how dangerous Sanakoyev's administration was because
its activities could foment another conflict. All the same, Tbilisi
keeps insisting on having Sanakoyev in the talks. The government of
Georgia sponsors his administration and strengthens its security's
might. Saakashvili needs South Ossetia back under Tbilisi's control or
everything will have been in vain. Unless the conflicts are settled,
Tbilisi can forget about EU and NATO membership. The premise was
aired by an obscure Lithuanian official, but the implications are
clear. "Established borders are of paramount importance for NATO
and the EU. Even if all membership rules are observed but conflicts
on the borders remain unsettled, Georgia's entry will be extremely
problematic and everyone knows it," one Kestutis Kriciunas, adviser
to the defense minister of Lithuania, said.
The haste with which Saakashvili is trying to settle ethnic conflicts
in Georgia does not improve the image of Georgia in the eyes of the
international community. Ossetians and Abkhazians are not the only
ones to be encountering problems in its relations with the Georgian
leadership. The Azerbaijani diaspora in the Marneul and Bolnis
districts of the republic regularly complain of harassment. Similar
reports come from Samtskhe-Javakhetia where the Armenians live. The
Greeks are leaving Georgia en masse, clearly scared of last year's
incidents in Tsalka. The Russian-speakers' exodus from Georgia is
nearly over. The "Advance guard" of the Dukhobor community from
the Ninotsmind district of Georgia settled in the Tambov region
of Russia over a month ago. Gorelovka, Bogdanovka, Zhdanovka,
Spasskoye and other settlements are abandoned. Over 3,000 families
moved to Bryansk, Voronezh, and other Russian regions. The Dukhobors
discovered their rights encroached on in Georgia. The authorities
refused to sell them land, claiming that their settlements were
located in the five-kilometers wide border zone. The Dukhobors were
left without anything because agriculture and cattle-breeding are
their life. Over 273,500 Russians left Georgia since 1999, depleting
the Russian diaspora in this country by more than 80%.