Tbilisi may formalize its relationship with the self-declared, alternative South Ossetian leader, Dimitri Sanakoev through putting him in charge of a new local administration which is slated to be established in the Georgian-controlled area of breakaway South Ossetia.
President Saakashvili had proposed on March 26 to set up “a temporary administrative unit” in the area. Although there is no written draft law yet, officials have provided further clarification. They explained on March 27 that the plan envisages the creation of a mechanism in South Ossetia which would enable Tbilisi to administer the region through local leaders.
“We need administration and management on the ground, including for the rehabilitation process there. We are cooperating with the [Dimitri Sanakoev’s] movement ‘People of South Ossetia for Peace'… Sanakoev has a legitimate right to represent the local population, both ethnic Georgians and Ossetians,” Gela Bezhuashvili, the Georgian Foreign Minister, told reporters on March 27.
He appealed to the international community not to ignore the “new reality” which has emerged in the conflict zone after the appearance of Sanakoev.
“Otherwise it will be impossible to achieve lasting peace in the region,” Bezhuashvili warned.
Education Minister Alexander Lomaia, an influential member of the cabinet, said on March 27 that Sanakoev needs administrative tools to implement his peace initiatives.
“We have a new reality in the region. Several thousand people, both ethnic Georgians and Ossetians, have pinned their hope on Sanakoev’s movement and now there is a need to provide him with certain administrative tools so as to enable it [the Sanakoev administration] to create the conditions for peaceful development,” Lomaia said.
MP Mikheil Machavariani, Vice-Speaker of the Parliament, said on March 27 that President Saakashvili’s initiative would result in the appointment of Tbilisi's, or even the president's own, representative in the region.
“This person will be the chief of the local [South Ossetian] administration and will be in control of the situation on the ground,” Machavariani told reporters.
An influential lawmaker from the ruling National Movement party, Giga Bokeria, said that the South Ossetian conflict should be resolved through dialogue with “local, community leaders who have a healthy vision.”
“I deem Dimitri Sanakoev to be this kind of leader,” MP Bokeria said on March 27.
“We are ready to talk with everyone who is willing to solve problems peacefully and fast. We are ready to talk with everyone who respects the major principle – the country’s territorial integrity,” Nino Burjanadze, the Parliamentary Chairperson, told lawmakers in Parliament on March 27.
Opposition reaction was more cautious. Davit Usupashvili, the leader of the Republican Party, said it was not yet clear what the President’s initiative envisaged and how it would help to solve the conflict in South Ossetia.
Dimitri Sanakoev has already welcomed the Georgian leader’s initiative in relation to the establishment of the administrative unit in South Ossetia. He said that his movement was “ready to undertake responsibility for further resolution of the Georgian-Ossetian conflict.”