Broad autonomy with firm political and cultural guarantees to the Ossetian people in a unified Georgian state should become the basis for the resolution of the conflict, Dimitri Sanakoev told Georgian lawmakers on May 11 in his address to Parliament. The speech was delivered in the Ossetian language.
As expected, Sanakoev, 38, whom President Saakashvili appointed as head of the provisional administration of South Ossetia on May 10, received a warm welcome in the parliament.
He told parliamentarians that he wanted to live in “a free, democratic state, where our and our children’s future will be protected.”
“I believe that this kind of future for my people is in a united, democratic and stable Georgia,” Sanakoev said.
He said that he and his colleagues had passed a long and winding road before coming to this point.
“Many [Ossetians] took arms [in the early 1990s] and I was among them. But we all have understood that armed confrontation brought nothing but misfortune… It became clear to us that we were in an impasse,” Sanakoev said.
Sanakoev was defense minister and then prime minister of breakaway South Ossetia for several months in 2001 when the region was run by de facto President Lyudvig Chibirov. But Sanakoev left for Russia after Eduard Kokoity took power in the breakaway region after the November 2001 presidential elections.
In June 2001, when Chibirov promoted Sanakoev to the post of prime minister, the Russian press reported that Sanakoev was “a highly-respected figure” in South Ossetia because of his active participation in fighting against Georgian forces in the early 1990s.
Sanakoev said that the armed conflict in South Ossetia in the early 1990s was a result of a “vicious Soviet legacy, grave mistakes committed by both sides and the imperialistic policy of divide and rule persued by external forces.”
He told lawmakers that despite his high-level position in the South Ossetian secessionist government he had failed to build confidence between the two sides and make a breakthrough in terms of conflict resolution “because it was beyond my powers.”
“There is only one solution – direct dialogue between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples, the neutralisation of external and internal destructive forces and their replacement with the effective and healthy support of the international democratic community. The European Union’s role in respect of confidence-building and economic rehabilitation is of vital importance. We should counter balance anti-democratic propaganda with peaceful initiatives and economic development projects,” Sanakoev said.
“I understand that making compromises will be necessary; we should be ready for this,” he added.
He also said that “living in a unified Georgia does not mean losing ties with North Ossetia.”
Secessionist authorities in Tskhinvali have said that independence and then unification with the neighboring North Ossetian Republic in Russia is their ultimate goal.
Sanakoev said that the Tskhinvali-based authorities, under instruction from their “foreign supervisors,” try to thwart confidence-building and provoke hostilities between the two peoples.
“Our Ossetian children grow up in an environment of endless conflict, under constant stress and tension… They don’t know what is going on beyond the checkpoints… We are losing entire generations,” he said.
“I will not allow it! We should not allow it,” he added.
“This is our current challenge; this is our current goal: to create a new Ossetia, strong and delightful, free of violence: an Ossetia of free people.”
In his closing remarks, Sanakoev called on the Georgian authorities to implement a law on property restitution for the victims of the South Ossetian conflict, which was passed by the Georgian parliament in December 2006.
Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze hailed Sanakoev’s speech as “emotional and sincere.”
“And this address gives us hope that we are really on the right path and that we will be able to fulfill our major task: to peacefully restore the country’s territorial integrity,” Burjanadze said.
The entire diplomatic corps, with the exception of Russian Ambassador Vyacheslav Kovalenko, was in Parliament to hear Sanakoev’s speech. Russia has repeatedly warned Tbilisi that the promotion of Sanakoev’s administration could shatter an already fragile situation in the region.