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Saakashvili Speaks of 'United Caucasus' in UN Speech
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 24 Sep.'10 / 02:19

  • To Abkhaz, Ossetians: 'we will protect you'
  • To Moscow: 'be part of transformation of region'
  • To Moscow: 'learn from us how to transform society'
  • To world leaders: 'help us to secure peace'
  • 'Modernization impossible with Khodorkovsky in Gulag' 
  • Calls on three countries to reverse Abkhaz, S.Ossetia recognition

President Saakashvili used his speech at the UN General Assembly on September 23 to, as he put it, "promote a vision for a free, stable and united Caucasus" and to call on Russia to be part of, what he called, an "ongoing transformation" of the Caucasus region.

He said that two years after "a full-scale invasion" by Russia, "Georgia is back as a laboratory for political reform and social transformation" with a clear objective "to create a more institutionalized system of liberal democratic governance."

Saakashvili said Russia invaded Georgia two years ago, "ethnically cleansed Georgian regions and illegally occupied" them with an objective "to destroy the Georgian laboratory of reforms" and to prevent the entire region from changing through following Georgia's path.

"Today, however, change is possible," Saakashvili said. "In fact, change is already taking place" in the Caucasus region, which, he said, had suffered from "division, injustice, conflict, colonization and violence". The people of the region, he said, were deeply tolerant, but governments and authorities created artificial divisions and "erected walls nobody could cross."

"I came here today to tell you that these times are vanishing, that the dream of unity and peace is possible," he said.

"I strongly believe that a common market, shared interests and political and economic interdependence will one day give birth to a united Caucasus. That is what I am calling for today."

"We might belong to different states and live on different side of the [Caucasus] mountains, but in terms of human and cultural space, there is no North and South Caucasus, there is one Caucasus, that belongs to Europe and will one day join the European family of free nations, following the Georgian path," he said. "Our unity would not be directed against anyone and we will not aspire to change any borders."

He said that "the historical move towards Caucasian unity" should start with projects in energy, education and cultural fields and the civil society sphere.

Saakashvili called on the Russian authorities to be part of the process of transformation and treat its neighbors as "partners and not vassals."

"You face a choice," he said addressing the Russian leadership. "Either you take a major part in this ongoing transformation... or this transformation will happen without you."

He also added that he wanted Russia "as a partner not as an enemy."

For that reason, he said, Tbilisi supported U.S. policy of reset and EU's policy of engagement with Russia.

He also said that Russia should care more about its North Caucasus region, "which is exploding" rather than about Georgia's foreign policy orientation or about undermining Georgia's development.

Saakashvili invited Russian authorities to come into Georgia "to understand how a post-Soviet society can turn into a European one."

In his speech Saakashvili touched upon Russian President Dmitry Medvedev's recent key theme - modernization of Russia's resource-dependent economy and in this context he also mentioned the Kremlin's battle with jailed oil tycoon, Mikhail Khodorkovsky, who is now serving an eight-year sentence and faces up to 22 more years in prison if found guilty in the new trial.

"Modernization without freedom is not sustainable and you cannot hope to diversify and develop your economy when you send your most successful businessmen to the Gulag, like Mikheil Khodorkovsky. Computers are not enough, if you don't have free minds to use them. So let us free our minds from our common Soviet past in order to build a common future," he said.

Three Russian diplomats in the hall were listening to Saakashvili's speech.

Addressing to Abkhazians and Ossetians, Saakashvili reiterated that Georgia wanted to resolve conflicts only through peaceful means and said: "We will protect your rights, your culture, your history."

"Rather than succumb to annexation by the Russian Empire, we invite you to build together with us a multicultural and multi-ethnic society that would be a regional model for tolerance and respect," he said. "I dream about the day when an Abkhaz or Ossetian citizen of Georgia... will become President of a reunited, democratic and European Georgia."

In his speech Saakashvili called on Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru to reverse their decision recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"It is never too late to overturn a bad policy... Imagine how uncomfortable these three isolated leaders from faraway countries will be when Moscow itself chooses to comply with international law and withdraw its troops? Because, ladies and gentlemen, that day will come," Saakashvili said.

He said Russia, which "claimed a military victory in 2008 now face a diplomatic and political defeat."

"In Moscow, the occupation and annexation will soon be debated. They are in fact already debated in the corridors of the Kremlin," Saakashvili said.

He also said the changes Georgia was undergoing through were irreversible and would survive his presidency, which ends in 2013. The Georgian people, he said, would "mightily resist any attempts to reverse these changes - no matter if those attempts come from inside or from abroad."

Addressing the international community he called for help in security peace in Georgia and the region.

"If there is clear support from the international community, I am convinced that a lasting peace can be secured in the Caucasus," Saakashvili said.

 

 

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