South Ossetian secessionist leader Eduard Kokoity’s “time is expiring,” President Saakashvili said after a summit of GUAM leaders in Baku on June 19.
Speaking at a news conference, President Saakashvili said that in a few months Tbilisi would start talks with Dimitri Sanakoev, the head of its loyal provisional administration in South Ossetia, to define the region’s status within the Georgian state.
“We will launch talks with Dimitri Sanakoev about autonomy. We will give Ossetians everything they have ever dreamed of in Georgia,” Saakashvili said.
“This is an issue for the next few months. Georgia has all the necessary resources at its disposal to resolve this issue peacefully, but quickly and soon,” he added.
The Georgian leader said that Tbilisi didn't want “to drag out the process forever” because its patience with the Tskhinvali-based authorities “is running out.”
He said there was no problem in relations between the Georgian and Ossetia peoples, but problems persisted with the Tskhinvali-based authorities, which, as he put it, had a criminal past.
Saakashvili's comments reflected the summit's agenda. Secessionist conflicts – a major challenge for three of the four member states - Azerbaijan, Georgia and Moldova - dominated the proceedings.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on June 19 that although GUAM in itself had no formal mechanism to resolve conflicts, its growing international weight would allow it to play an important role in this respect.
“GUAM’s role in this regard is determined by its growing political weight and by the growth of our economies,” Aliyev said.
“GUAM has a very clear position in this regard: the restoration of the territorial integrity of our countries and putting an end to separatism,” he added.
Moldovan Prime Minister Vasile Tarlev said that separatist conflicts were “externally supported artificial problems.”
A joint communiqué signed after the summit by the GUAM leaders reiterated the member states’ common approach towards conflict resolution based on the principle of territorial integrity.
The Georgian president’s press office reported that the establishment of a joint GUAM peacekeeping unit was discussed during bilateral talks between the Azerbaijani and Georgian presidents.
“The deployment of GUAM peacekeeping units in the Georgian-Ossetian and Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zones is under consideration,” the president’s press office said on June 18.
The possibility of setting up joint peacekeeping units has been under active consideration since last year. No formal decision, however, has been made yet.
In the event of their realization, Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko said that GUAM peacekeeping units would operate under UN or OSCE auspices.