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Georgian, Russian Diplomats Meet, Amid Row over Kremlin-Proposed Treaty with Abkhazia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 16 Oct.'14 / 22:56

Nobody has a right, and ability either, to prevent Moscow and Sokhumi from bringing their ties to a new level, the Russian Foreign Ministry said, slamming Georgia’s reaction to Moscow-proposed new treaty with Abkhazia, which Tbilisi condemned as “a step towards annexation” of its breakaway region.

The Russian Foreign Ministry released its statement after Georgian and Russian diplomats met in Prague on October 16 for a new round of “informal dialogue”, which was launched between the two countries in December, 2012 to establish direct channel of communication in the condition of absence of diplomatic relations.

Talks, led by Georgian PM’s special representative for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin, has mostly been focused on trade and economic ties, leading to reopening of Russian market for Georgian products last year, but Russia’s intention to sign its proposed new treaty with Abkhazia on “alliance and integration” apparently topped the agenda of this recent meeting between the two diplomats in Prague on October 16.

“Although it is not part of mandate of our [talks], my Georgian colleague raised this issue in an acute manner,” Grigory Karasin told Georgian journalists in Prague after the talks, but also added that Moscow will pursue its intention to have a new treaty with Abkhazia

He also said that the proposed draft treaty “actually sums up currently existing stage of relations” between Moscow and Sokhumi and it poses no threat to “sovereignty” of Abkhazia.

The Russia-proposed draft has also been criticized in Abkhazia, which although wants to upgrade its ties with Moscow, but met the proposed draft treaty with concern over “loss of sovereignty.”

The Georgian and Russian diplomats concluded their recent meeting without setting even a tentative date for a next round of talks.

Abashidze told journalists after the meeting that he and his Russian interlocutor have “radically different” views on Moscow’s planned new treaty with Sokhumi.

“I have explained to him [Karasin] risks and complications that [signing of this treaty] will create to our dialogue, which we have launched [in December, 2012],” Abashidze said. “It will be assessed by us as a step towards annexation of Abkhazia with subsequent legal consequences if this treaty is signed. I have also explained to him that we will try maximally to engage the international community in this process.”

Abashidze was facing calls, mostly from the opposition, but also from one senior lawmaker from ruling Georgian Dream coalition, to pull out from this round of talks in protest over the Moscow-proposed treaty with Abkhazia.

The opposition UNM party has tabled a draft resolution in the Parliament calling for scrapping this format of talks with Russia and also calling on the government to revise its “counterproductive” policy towards Moscow. Lawmakers from the GD ruling coalition have slammed the opposition-proposed draft and it is not likely to be passed by the Parliament.

Abashidze said that it is now up to the Georgian leadership to decide whether to continue or not this format of direct dialogue with Moscow. Abashidze himself is not likely to support scrapping of these talks.

“Saying no is very easy – just one phone call and it’s done… But decisions taken based on emotions have demonstrated more than once to us that it’s better to think twice,” he said and added that even if this format is scrapped, Tbilisi will then anyway require some other format for keeping direct channel of communication with Moscow.

In its statement after the meeting, the Russian Foreign Ministry said that in the view of high interests towards “preparation” of new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi, it deemed necessary “to repeat some of the already known facts and assessments.” 
 
“Criminal military adventure of the Saakashvili regime in August, 2008 led to irreversible political changes in the South Caucasus,” it said, adding that Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “independent and sovereign states” and created basis for bilateral inter-state relations between Moscow and Sokhumi through a comprehensive cooperation agreement signed on September 17, 2008, as well as through consequent 80 bilateral agreements.
 
“Tbilisi’s persistent unwillingness to respect the choice of Abkhazia in favor of independence prompted Moscow and Sukhum to consolidate clauses on mutual defense against aggression and joint protection of [Abkhaz] borders in 2008. Based on separate other agreements signed later, a Russian military based was established and border guard forces deployed in Abkhazia,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Confrontational tone of the Georgian Foreign Ministry’s statement and remarks of Georgian figures is a convincing argument in favor of further strengthening of the Russian-Abkhaz security cooperation,” it said.

“Nobody has a right, and ability either, to obstruct Russia and Abkhazia in enhancing their inter-state relations based on new stage of modern development, including in the view of deepening integration trends in the post-Soviet space and globally as a whole. We have no doubt that open and vigorous discussions of the draft treaty, which is now underway in Abkhazia, will help to jointly elaborate a document fully meeting national interests of the both countries,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

“Contrary to the Georgian claims, such perspective poses no threat either to the process of normalization of the Georgian-Russian relations or, especially, to the Geneva international discussions.”

“As far as this issue was raised by… Zurab Abashidze at a meeting in Prague on October 16, Deputy Foreign Minister of Russia, Grigory Karasin, laid out principled position of the Russian side,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said.

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