Tbilisi is against of “isolation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia” and aims at fostering ties between the communities “separated by dividing lines,” according to a draft strategy paper laying out Georgia’s intended policies towards its two breakaway regions.
The 9-page document, which has yet to be endorsed by the government before becoming an official paper, includes measures through which Tbilisi says it wants to foster engagement with the breakaway regions including through economic, education, healthcare and cultural projects, as well as through public diplomacy and people-to-people contacts.
The document has a working title “State Strategy towards Occupied Territories” and a subtitle “Engagement through Cooperation”. During the series of discussions of the paper between the government officials and Georgian political analysts and scholars, it was recommended by some not to use the term “occupied territories” in the title of the document – the issue which still remains open for consideration.
When referring to the authorities in breakaway regions, the document avoids using term “puppet regimes”, which, especially after the August war, has turned into a main term used by the Georgian officials and many Georgian median sources when speaking or reporting on authorities in the breakaway regions. In English-language official Georgian statements a term “proxy regimes” are used.
The document instead refers to the authorities in the breakaway regions as those who are “in control of governance in Abkhazia and Tskhinvali/South Ossetia regions”.
“We can’t call them [Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders] ‘Presidents’; but we can not either call them - ‘you puppet’. We have to show correctness,” Temur Iakobashvili, the Georgian state minister for reintegration, said at a parliamentary committee hearing on December 24.
Iakobashvili, who is in charge of developing the strategy paper, told lawmakers that Georgia should not pin hopes solely on international community and should itself be more “practical” so that to deprive Russia its “exclusive relations” with the breakaway regions through supporting their “de-isolation.”
According to the draft strategy, Georgia plans to achieve its goals only by peaceful and diplomatic efforts and “rules out conflict resolution by military means.”
The document calls for reopening of railway connection with the breakaway regions and regular bus traffic across the administrative border. It also envisages creation of “special zones” on the both side of the administrative borders to foster trade and agriculture enterprises.
In the context of public diplomacy, the document notes the need of having dialogue with the Abkhaz diaspora in Turkey - descendants of those tens of thousands of Muslim Abkhazians, who had to move to the then Ottoman empire, as part of a larger Muslim migration process from the Caucasus in the nineteenth century.
Iakobashvili told the lawmakers that the Abkhaz community in Turkey was mainly “negatively disposed towards Georgia.” “We will have to work seriously in this regard,” he added.
According to the document, the Georgian authorities would seek cooperation with the Russian and de facto authorities in the breakaway regions to secure implementation of the strategy.
It says that Georgia “will continue cooperating with the occupying force in frames of the Geneva process or in frames of other potential fora for securing successful implementation of the strategy and the action plan.”
The document offers setting up of “a status-neutral” mechanisms to work with the breakaway regions’ authorities on implementation of the strategy.
Temur Iakobashvili told the lawmakers that a detailed action plan of implementing the strategy would be developed within next six months and presented not later than June 30, 2010.