‘This situation may have a positive influence on conflict regions’
25 November, 2010
‘This situation may have a positive influence on conflict regions’

Interview with Zurab Abashidze, Doctor of Political Sciences

‘We are not going to import problems to NATO,’ said Nikola Sarkozy at the Lisbon Summit. In his speech, French President also reminded us of Georgian problems related to two separatist regions.

This is not the case when they are only pointing to our problems.
Last week Georgian journalists met with their Abkhazian counterparts under the aegis of European Council. The seminar which was held in Istanbul led me to believe again

that we need to regain Abkhazians before doing anything about regaining Abkhazia. Once in the past, even Abkhazians did not deny their kinship with Georgians. But later the war broke out and both sides committed atrocities. Yet, elder brothers always have to be more prudent than their Youngers. So have we, Georgians. We have to employ more endurance and sensibility than our younger brothers do. And we will get Abkhazians back for sure - especially with the growing notoriety of so called Russian peacekeeping presence rightly called by the civilized world as occupation. Sooner or later Abkhazians themselves will realize that Russia seeks Abkhazia, not Abkhazians, as opposed to what we do. These were the issues of our discussions with political expert Dr. Zurab  Abashidze:

Q: Resolution of NATO Parliamentary Assembly on ethnic cleansing and occupation was hailed as a great diplomatic victory. Has the time come for enhanced political fervor of western partners directed both to Russia and Georgia?
A: It depends what is meant by fervor. The fact that the Georgian issue was discussed by the NATO Parliamentary Assembly and Summit is indeed significant as such. It means our western partners keep up interest in Georgia and continue supporting our country. Naturally, we want more specific results, not only statements; especially regarding the occupied territories. However, the persistent Russian position on the matter complicates the issue.

Q: As a rule, this sort of resolutions generate Abkhazian resentment. They see NATO as a conflict instigator and a major inciter of Georgia.
A: Our Abkhazian Colleagues should take into account the fact that NATO is the whole western civilization, i.e. Western Europe and North America. I do not think it is sensible to outright criticize and blame this huge area. I cannot say Abkhazians do not see the problem. But they find it hard to see themselves as a part of it. Like others, they don’t have the nerve to criticize their own selves.

Q: Till today Georgia and Ukraine were viewed as one group in terms of their NATO integration. Now it turns out that Ukraine is no longer eager to speed up the process, therefore it distances itself from Georgia. Do you think this change heralds victorious advancement of Russian polity to the post-Soviet area?
A: First of all, we should note that nobody is coerced into NATO. When this organization was created, the practice of voluntarism was immediately adopted. Consequently, the story goes about deserved integration instead of forced dragging-in. In other words, after certain pre-defined criteria are satisfied, you would be accepted as a decent member, in contrary to the Soviet-Russian violent practice of putting together the empire by the use of sheer force, including the countries of Warsaw Pact. This time I have a similar impression too. Today Moscow is a victim of an old abortive cliche by believing that it can create a desired configuration using old methods. These things never happened in NATO, and they will not. If Ukraine does not want to become a member, it is up to Ukraine to decide.

Q: Mikheil Saakashvili stated that he supports the restart process between Russia and NATO because the dialogue between them through more contacts and less confrontation may shape up Russian policy more civilized to its neighbors. This assumption is echoed in the attitude of western leaders. Do you think Saakashvili started to share those attitudes?
A: I do not have an impression that Russians were wooed during the NATO Summit, excessively compromising anything in favor of Russia. Quite the other way round - I think the content of the NATO strategy concept, its character and the decisions that have been made – everything points to the fact that NATO adheres to solidarity. In the same way, I did not see any retreat on the Georgian issue. All the positions on the issues of paramount importance to us are solidly maintained. Yet, it should be noted that all these things are not done to provoke confrontation and humiliation. To summarize it, on the one hand, they extend a hand to Russia, on the other hand, their principal positions are put in front of Russia.

Q: ITAR-TASS reported that Romanian President demanded replacement of Russian peacekeeping forces stationed in Transdnistria with EU peacekeepers. ‘This will prevent new war in Transdnistria,’ – Basescu said. It appears Russian ‘peacekeeping handwriting’ is well known in other regions as well?
A: Russia uses the same old philosophy in Transdnistria as it uses it in Abkhazia. Unfortunately, I do not expect Russia will heed these calls. Nonetheless, we should not be too pessimistic. If relations between Russia and the West become more dynamic, it should not be ruled out that the rapprochement would ease the situation and solve the status problems in the conflict regions, including in Transdnistria, Abkhazia and so called South Ossetia.

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