26 November, 2013
“I’m glad the Ambassador’s declaration was incorrectly translated”

According to reports, while meeting with the students at Tbilisi State University, Richard Norland, USA Ambassador to Georgia, declared that “Georgians treated the Abkhazians and Ossetians the same way as Russians treated Georgians before and for this Georgians should apologize.” Later it became known that the Ambassador’s declaration was translated incorrectly and it was disseminated in a distorted form. Political scientist Giorgi Kuchava, who 20 years ago met with Richard Norland w
hen he was visiting Georgia, thinks that the Ambassador couldn’t have said such words.
G.K. – Mr. Norland is an experienced, highly qualified diplomat who in Soviet times for years worked in USA Embassy in Moscow. Even in case he had reason for it, he wouldn’t make such a declaration unless there was an instruction from Washington.
When speaking with my grandfather who worked in Apkhazeti, Mr. Norland asked him about the relations between Georgians and Abkhazians, whether there was any discord between them. My grandfather answered that the relations between Georgian and Abkhaz peoples were perfect. The symptoms of tension started to show in 1954 when the Crimean peninsula was given to Ukraine by Russia.
I’ll recall the civil war in Syria. The Georgian people were watching the process inasmuch as we were interested whether this war would concern us and if we could become involved in it. Later it happened so that the Syrian problem was regulated and it was due to a big role of Russian diplomacy. Retaining of the Assad’s regime is doubtlessly great success of Russian diplomacy. At the same time I think that it was the West’s and first of all USA’s failure. Europe could have received Qatar gas through Syria and it would have been a significant blow to Russian Gazprom.
In his book “The New Cold War. Putin’s Russia and the Threat to the West,” famous British journalist Edward Lucas notes that the new cold war started so that the free world couldn’t even notice it and it cannot realize that for now it’s being lost.
I was watching attentively all the information means and until I learnt that the Ambassador’s words were incorrectly translated the silence of Ministry of Foreign Affairs, political parties and NGOs at Richard Norland’s declaration amazed me.
I’d like to remind you that one of the reasons for Kosovo’s recognition allegedly was the Serbs inhuman attitude to Albanians living in Kosovo. Thus, in case Richard Norland’s declaration was real, Georgian people should have been at least frightened as it could have been a sign for preparations of the leading countries to recognize Abkhazia and the so-called South Ossetia as independent states. In diplomatic language, it has this meaning. Do we face a threat that the free world, like in case of Syria, will again satisfy the Kremlin’s demand? By the way, not long ago social network spread Putin’s words according to which former USSR is Russia.
I’d like to remind those who may really think that we, Georgians, oppressed Abkhazians that we, Georgians are refugees from Abkhazia; ethnic cleansing was implemented not by Abkhaz people but by Russian militaries and North Caucasian “volunteers” supported by Russian Federation armed forces. This is known to Richard Norland. In 1993, he visited Abkhazia more than once. He even met with the so-called President of de-facto Republic of Abkhazia Vladimir Ardzinba. I’m glad the Ambassador’s declaration was incorrectly translated. Otherwise I’d think that his position meant conceding of Abkhazia to Russia!

Ambassador’s response to the press question regarding the hyped discussion with TSU students:

Ambassador Norland: “I’m glad you have asked because I think there may be some need of clarification and I’m going to actually read you something. There was a so called “quote” taken out of context. It was not a policy speech, but part of a frank and thought-provoking academic discussion with students. It was an isolated statement during an hour and 20 minute-long exchange. U.S. policy has not changed with regards to the occupied territories. As Georgians know, I myself witnessed first-hand the suffering experienced 20 years ago. Mistakes were made on all sides. But nothing justifies the forced expulsion of hundreds of thousands of Georgians from their homes or the occupation of sovereign Georgian territory. Looking to the future, some sort of reconciliation process that addresses grievances on all sides must be part of the effort to restore Georgia’s territorial integrity, an effort which the United States will continue to support strongly.”
Q: - Was it right for Ambassador Norland to express his personal opinion publicly.
Ambassador Norland: “This was a discussion with students. Actually it was off the record and it was secret recording. I’m actually surprised and I’m not sure the quotes you have are accurate. But I’ve expressed my opinion on this statement today.”
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