Tbilisi has launched, as it put it, “an all-inclusive process” of defining South Ossetia’s status – for the second time in two years. Secessionist authorities in Tskhinvali, as expected, have already denounced it as “illegal” and “absurd.”
PM Nogaideli said after the session that five sub-groups would be set up within the commission to work on constitutional and legal issues; economic; financial; cultural; and educational issues.
State Minister for Conflict Resolution Issues Davit Bakradze said there were three major principles on which the status would be built: Georgia’s territorial integrity, strong political and cultural guarantees for South Ossetia and human rights.
Tbilisi laid out its vision over South Ossetia status for the first time in 2005 in a document called Initiatives of the Georgian Government with Respect to the Peaceful Resolution of the Conflict in South Ossetia. Although the document has since gathered dust, it is likely that it will be resurrected to form the basis of the report to be issued by the present commission.
The commission is scheduled to reconvene in the village of Kurta in the conflict zone on July 28. Sanakoev’s administration has its headquarters there.
“We are launching a very important process; this is yet another step towards the restoration of Georgia’s territorial integrity,” PM Nogaideli said. “Our position is clear. We want to resolve this conflict once and for all.”
He said broader participation in the commission, involving opposition parties, was of crucial importance, because the issue needed wider political consensus in the country.
PM Nogaideli tasked Foreign Minister Gela Bezhuashvili with encouraging both Russia and the EU to send representatives to the commission.
“I am sure the EU will be involved in this process. Russia should also be involved if it wants to act as a real mediator,” State Minister Bakradze said.
Nogaideli also said that “the commission’s door is open” to the Tskhinvali-based secessionist authorities as well. He told State Minister Bakradze to raise the issue of the involvement of Tskhinvali-based organizations at the next session of the quadripartite Joint Control Commission (JCC).
Tskhinvali, however, has already responded. It said that South Ossetia’s status was defined in a referendum in 1992 and reaffirmed once again in a repeat referendum last November. Neither referendum has been internationally recognized.
“It is absurd that the Georgian side plans to hold ‘negotiations’ with its puppets in the village of Kurta, led by Dimitri Sanakoev. This person has become an outcast of Ossetian society. Even his relatives have turned their backs on him,” a statement posted on the South Ossetian Press and Information Committee website reads.
It also said that Tbilisi’s decision “to unilaterally define” South Ossetia’s status was a violation of previous agreements envisaging the establishment of joint working groups to achieve settlement based on a three-stage plan.
“The Georgian side has instead chosen the way of separate talks with its own officials [referring to Sanakoev’s administration] who have nothing to do with South Ossetia,” the statement said.
It said that the Georgian side was in a hurry to deal with the South Ossetia issue because of the Kosovo case.
“[Kosovo’s] independence will become a universal precedent to be applied to South Ossetia, Abkhazia and Transdnestria, which have even more legal grounds to aspire to independence. It motivates Saakashvili to seek ways of escalating tensions in the Georgian-Ossetian conflict zone.”