In an internet conference on July 6, Russian President Vladimir Putin reiterated that a universal principle should become a basis for solution of conflicts and hinted that referendums should be held in breakaway regions.
“We respect one of the basic principles of the international law – territorial integrity of a state. At the same time, of course, we understand that it is impossible not to respect opinion of population of certain territory about arrangement of their own life. This contradiction, both in practice and in documents of the United Nations, has always persisted and persists now. We want – and we will insist on this – solutions to be developed for these issues based on common principles, so that to avoid taking one kind of decision in respect of one part of European states and regions, lets say Kosovo and another kind of decision in respect of others, lets say Abkhazia and South Ossetia based on so called current political reasonability. We think it is not correct,” Putin said.
He also noted that there are lots of similarities between the conflicts in Balkans and in Caucasus and downplayed position pushed by the western powers that those conflicts are of unique character.
“In one case Yugoslavian empire has collapsed, in another case – something new has been established or is trying to establish on the remnants of the Soviet empire. [In Kosovo] there is Muslim population and a significant part of the population is Muslim here [in Abkhazia] as well. What is the difference?.. These are old problems and their roots are back in the history. So we will call on the international community to avoid these very dangerous double standards and to work based on common rules,” Putin said.
Putin said that Russia made a courageous step when decided to hold a referendum in Chechnya.
“My principle is that, whatever dramatic situation is we should eventually ask for the people’s opinion,” the Russian leader said.
“The same should be done in Abkhazia and in other places,” he added.
After this statement of the Russian President, leader of breakaway Abkhazia Sergey Bagapsh said that Abkhazia may hold a referendum if there is a request from the international community.
“In the 1999 referendum almost 100% of residents of Abkhazia voted for independence… But we are ready to repeat a referendum if the international community requests,” Bagapsh told Interfax news agency.
Tbilisi condemned the 1999 referendum in Abkhazia as illegitimate as over 200 000 Georgian displaced persons from Abkhazia were not able to participate.
In his earlier comments Bagapsh was always ruling out possibility of the new referendum in Abkhazia, citing that there was no need because one has already been held in 1999.