Tbilisi plans to establish “a temporary administrative unit” on the territory of South Ossetia to help the local population to undertake responsibility for the future of the region, President Saakashvili said on March 26.
In a televised address, made at a session of the National Security Council, Saakashvili said that the temporary administrative unit would help the local population “to become part of our peacekeeping, police operations and thus to take charge of the security of their own region.”
“We have decided to ask Parliament to pass a law, which will enable the Georgian executive government to establish temporary administrative units on the entire territory of the Tskhinvali Region [a term favored by Georgian officials to refer to breakaway South Ossetia]; to create a temporary administrative unit as part of the negotiating process,” Saakashvili said.
“Everyone who wants peace, let’s negotiate, let’s set up this administrative unit jointly and let’s jointly prepare for real elections in the entire territory of the former autonomous district of South Ossetia and eventually determine [the status] of the territory through talks and the peace process. Before that time, we should create administrative structures, which will take care of the socio-economic problems of the local population and which will enable us to share the burden of peacekeeping operations with local Ossetians and the local population,” he added.
Saakashvili said that he had consulted on this issue with Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze, who is currently on a working visit to the United States, as well as with senior lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party.
He said that the administrative unit will serve for “a transitional period in order to facilitate working on the [South Ossetia's] status, which should be the last stage of the democratic, peaceful process.”
Saakashvili also commented on Dimitri Sanakoev, a Tbilisi loyalist and self-declared South Ossetian leader. His emergence on the political scene, the president said, was a major blow for South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard Kokoity and “his foreign patrons,” Saakashvili said.
“We should talks with Sanakoev and with any other local leader who represents local opinion and who wants peace; the final status of this territory within the Georgian state should be determined of course with the active participation of the local population,” he stated.
The Georgian leader’s announcement comes after the March 25 incident in which two Georgians died.
Georgian Interior Minister Vano Merabishvili told the National Security Council session on March 26 that two Georgian policemen were killed after their car was ambushed by “at least six well-armed militants” near the village of Nikozi in the conflict zone.
But the South Ossetian side said that its militias opened fire to repel “a squad of Georgian saboteurs.”
President Saakashvili said that the March 25 attack was a provocative act carried out by Eduard Kokoity and his regime, which he described as “gang of bandits.”
He stressed that Tbilisi would not cut its ties with the Sanakoev administration, nor pull out the Abkhaz government-in-exile from the Tbilisi-controlled upper Kodori Gorge in breakaway Abkhazia, despite “threats towards Georgia.”
Russia has said that Tbilisi’s ties Sanakoev and the presence of the Abkhaz government-in-exile in upper Kodori Gorge complicate the conflict resolution process.