President Saakashvili’s non-use of force pledge can be “perceived seriously” if only it “is put on paper” and when “it becomes legally binding,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said on November 24.
“Russia still believes that the road towards ensuring peace and security in Trans Caucasus lies through legally binding commitment on non-use of force between Tbilisi and Tskhinvali, as well as between Tbilisi and Sokhumi,” a statement issued by the Russian Foreign Ministry reads.
In his address to the European Parliament on November 23, President Saakashvili said Georgia was ready for “unilateral initiative to declare that Georgia will never use force to roll back the Russian occupation and to restore its control over the occupied areas.”
Saakashvili also said that he would sent a relevant letters to the UN Secretary General; OSCE Secretary General and EU leaders.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said that impressions from Saakashvili’s speech were mixed.
“On the one hand, we would like to believe, that Saakashvili’s remarks… reflect Tbilisi’s realization of the fact – which has been persistently suggested for many years already by Russia and other members of the international community – that use of force is inadmissible and a crime,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
“But the way in which this so called ‘unilateral solemn pledge’ is being delivered cannot but trigger our concern,” it continued. “Saakashvili still tries to convince the international community in the existence of some kind of conflict between Russia and Georgia, instead of speaking about many years of conflict between Tbilisi and peoples of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which as a result of another Georgian forceful adventure in August 2008 ended up with eventual self-determination of these peoples,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.
It also said that in the past Georgia had broken its commitments for number of times.
“We all remember 'a peace-loving' televised address by Saakashvili on August 7, 2008, just couple of hours before barbarous overnight shelling of Tskhinvali,” it said.
In his address to the European Parliament, Saakashvili also called on the Russian leadership to engage in a dialogue. The Russian Foreign Ministry’s statement does not address that part of Saakashvili’s address.
Moscow has long been pushing - long before the August war and afterwards as well - for a non-use of force treaties between Tbilisi and Sokhumi and Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. The most recent proposal by Russia involved "unilateral declarations" signed separately by Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali on non-use of force pledges. Russia itself refuses to sign such document, as it does not consider itself party into the conflict.
Tbilisi's position was that no new such treaty was required as non-use of force commitment already was including in the August 12 six-point ceasefire agreement. At the same time, Georgia’s position was that it was ready to sign a separate new treaty, but on the condition if Russia was also part of it. Georgia also wanted the new treaty to reflect the commitments Russia had already undertaken under the six-point agreement, in particular the part of the agreement, which calls on the parties to return their military forces to the positions held prior to outbreak of hostilities on August 7.
Saakashvili’s announcement at the European Parliament is more close to what Moscow was offering recently, in particular making "unilateral declarations" signed separately by Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali on non-use of force pledges.