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Two years ago, on 26 August, Russia recognized Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The special correspondent of Kommersant Olga Allenova asked the residents of both republics, that they think about their independence.
Two years of independence at first glance went Abkhazia only benefit. The number of tourists from Russia increased. The capital of Abkhazia, Sukhumi, where until recently the main streets were the ruins of the old war-ravaged homes, turns into a nice clean city, and even some half-dead city like Ochamchira, come to life here now, too, have visitors, and some Russians have bought apartments: here it is cheaper than in Gagra and Sukhumi. However, while real estate is not official, and buyers draw up real estate on familiar Abkhazians: the law of the land and property, which should legalize such transactions, the Abkhazian parliament has not yet accepted.
In Sukhumi, had a large business center, and soon these will be another five, built a large supermarket, a new multi-storey houses. All this is part and parcel of a new life.
A new life began two years ago, when Russia recognized the republic independent. The recent visit of Dmitry Medvedev in Sukhumi confirmed: Russia will support Abkhazia and beyond, as well as evidence of support within the next three years will allocate 11 billion rubles. The first 3 billion will go this year. "This money will go primarily to build roads, hospitals, schools, – and said the Abkhaz government. – In Abkhazia, a large tourist potential, and that it develops, it is necessary to fix the infrastructure. With Russian assistance, we will make it much faster than if I had to do it ourselves. "
Moscow’s influence is really felt: except banners with Presidents Bagapsh and Medvedev, about him resemble gas station Rosneft and the Russian military in the form. For two years people in uniform was more: on military bases in Abkhazia, Moscow, under grant of lease, is located 3800 Russian servicemen.
The main result of Abkhaz independence has confidence in the future, which appeared in the republic. Previously, every day they waited for a new war with Georgia. Now they know, the war will not, because Russia will protect them. However, as Russia strengthens its presence in Abkhazia, many began to realize that Russia’s guarantees are very expensive. "The feeling of security that we have appeared due to Russia, business development and business, – said the Abkhaz politician Inal .- But this is only one side of the coin. The other side – our dependence on Russia, which becomes more pronounced."
Prior to the recognition of all agreements between Abkhazia and Russia were orally: as expressed Khashig, they were "gentlemen’s agreement". After the recognition of hand began to conclude treaties, which, according to local opposition, "Abkhazia does too much curtseys. The opposition is still critical of President Bagapsh for an agreement on joint protection of state borders. The contract stipulates that the border of Abkhazia and Georgia must protect the border of Abkhazia and Russia, but allows Russia to establish and own frontier. "As a result, today only protect our borders by Russian troops, the entire boundary is in their jurisdiction, and even the president of Abkhazia, and can not come to the frontier with the inspection without the consent of Moscow. These facts severely beaten on our independence," – says Khashig.
"Many of our citizens have been the war and now can not understand why they can not buy a house here or a business"
Its problems have arisen and the Abkhaz entrepreneurs: when the republic came wealthy Russian businessmen, local business is uncompetitive. "There is no preference to local businesses there, – said Khashig .- And in the devastated economy of our post-war society does not always respond appropriately to incoming business. Many of our citizens have been the war and now can not understand why they can not buy a house here or a business : prices are going up like mushrooms after rain, and this is due to the influx of Russian money. Moreover, some Russian companies to the Abkhaz authorities just give a hectare of land, and no one knows what caused it. It is clear that this is the price of independence. But in the end the independence of may be too expensive to cost us, and we will be bankrupt. If this goes on, there may emerge a serious social protest. "
A lot of fuss in Abkhazia statement by the head of Rosneft Sergey Bogdanchikov, published on the website "Oil of Russia" in June. According to Bogdanchikov, OAO Rosneft owns 100% of OOO RN Shelf Abkhazia. According to the Abkhaz authorities, sharing the Abkhaz side in the LV Shelf Abkhazia "is 49%. In fact, even the signing of the treaty between Abkhazia and Rosneft on the conditions 49-51% of their time was the target of criticism of the opposition, believes that "the controlling stake must be where the raw material is extracted. Now it turns out that the Abkhaz side in the project Rosneft offshore development in general, a big question. Commenting on the story with the statement Bogdanchikov, an independent Abkhaz newspaper "right" states: "This is an example of colonial behavior."
Local environmentalists are sounding the alarm, too: where is the guarantee that the work of oil will not cause damage to the ecology of Abkhazia? "If Abkhazia has nothing on this project, it means that the Abkhaz authorities have been unable to influence the management of Rosneft – said Khashig .- And if there is some kind of accident or just the oil will work in good faith, our leaders simply are not legally should be able to cancel work on the shelf. "
Fear of losing national identity – the only thing that brings the Ossetians and Abkhazians
Another result of Abkhaz independence – the growing popularity of Russian and Abkhazian rating fall. Abkhazia’s Russian-speaking population is growing, and local newspapers are increasingly breaking the law of 2008, obliging the media to fill in the texts of the Abkhaz language at least half of their area. Recently, in the Abkhazian Ministry of Justice of the editors of local newspapers demanded that the parliament "to cease obstructing the business" of their publications: the view of journalists, the Abkhaz is spoken by only a small part of Abkhazia, and obeying the law makes the newspaper at a loss. According to the Abkhaz journalist Vitaly Sharia, the republic’s authorities should invest in training Abkhaz language in kindergartens and schools, rather than spending money on textbooks for adults who read them.
Two years of independence we do not give"
The language issue has recently escalated in South Ossetia: influx of construction workers, military and government officials from Russia, as many believe, could lead to that very soon the Ossetian language would lose their positions. Since 2001, the republic has a law, which recognized for the Ossetian language status of the state, but for Russian – official status. And today the official documentation in the republic is conducted in Russian.
However, if it were not for the July statement by the president, Eduard Kokoity, asked the MPs to the party "Unity" to make public the Russian language, language problems are not remembered. But the threat of national identity led deputies have the courage to raise his voice in defense of the Ossetian language. This has caused concern in Moscow: visited recently in South Ossetia, the State Duma of Russia South Ossetia called on colleagues to oppose attempts to sow discord between Russia and Ossetia. South Ossetian counterpart justified: the Russian language no one attempts, the question of his status as just discussed, and change the status is not easy – only through a referendum.
"To change the status of Russian language, it is necessary to hold a referendum – confirms the speaker of South Ossetia’s parliament, Stanislav Kochiev .- In my opinion, in our country where many people still live in tents, it’s not a matter of prime necessity." To show Russia that the Russian language in South Ossetia is not in danger, the authorities have put in the center of the monument to Pushkin. This white monument in the white square looks like an island of extraordinary prosperity in the half-ruined South Ossetian reality.
The remaining issues of concern today Abkhazia, South Ossetia does not understand. It would have pleased the growth of investment attractiveness, as well as the arrival of large corporations and medium-sized businesses in Russia, but in South Ossetia, until now, two years after the war, not build houses, hotels and schools. Indicative Republican Library, revival of "Spetsstroy" six months ago: from the outside the building flawless, but inside is empty – the local authorities do not have money to buy shelving, and books stacked in piles in a brand new white halls.
Hundreds of families remain on the street. Their homes were built last year, but due to opposition of local authorities and intermediaries through which Moscow sent into South Ossetia to restore the funds, the construction this year in general was not conducted.
Inara Gabaraeva, head of the fund to support victims of war, already two years living with neighbors. The ruins of her two-story house was demolished last year – cleared the site for new construction. Under the approved regulations, each victim’s family are entitled to a house at 125 square meters. The exception is residents of apartment buildings barrack-like: they rely on 80 square meters. Since the house Inara had a common wall with neighbors, she was offered 80. She fights for herself and for others, since such stories are numerous. She tries to help those who are living in tents and who is even harder (see the article "We built those whose money had been" in the N 31 this year), wrote a letter to the Russian authorities and international organizations. Living in the past two years, it seems to her hell. And those two years – the term South Ossetian independence.
When I ask her what she thinks about it, she honestly replied: "Two years of independence we have given nothing. We have two years of homelessness. Pohoril’tsi Many people tell me they are ready to seek political asylum anywhere. I am afraid to hear it. We do believe Russia, we were so happy when we are freed from the constant threat of Georgian, but now we see that the Russian leadership, as well as ours, for we do not care.
September 2, 2008, six days after President Medvedev recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the Federal Agency of Geodesy and Cartography (Roskartografia) asked the Russian Foreign Ministry for advice on the designation of new states on maps. October 9, based on the recommendations of the agency issued an official letter, has determined to specify the capital of Abkhazia, the word "Sukhum" (instead of Sukhumi), and for the capital of South Ossetia – "Tskhinval" (instead of Tskhinvali). To indicate Abkhazia maps Roskartografia proposed use dot net yellow and blue colors, and South Ossetia – a grid of purple and blue colors.
Currently, the majority of maps and atlases represented in retail sales, comply with the instructions Roskartographya. Changes in 2008-2010 were, in particular, made a world atlas, prepared by the Federal State Unitary Enterprise PKO "Cartography", the political map of the world RUZ Publishing Co., a world atlas publishing ACT and other cards. However, the "Power" still found traces of the old traditions. The "Illustrated Atlas of the world" published by "Ultra Extents" on maps of the capital of Abkhazia and South Ossetia signed a new way, but in the alphabetical index of geographical names, they appear familiar with the letter "and" at the end.
Abkhazia will succeed
In freedom, not as a ward of any other nation
By President Sergei Bagapsh
My country is recognized by Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela. A long-awaited European Union report recently concluded that any government recognizing us would be violating the law.
You might wonder then why I am so optimistic, indeed certain, that the independence of Abkhazia not only is assured, but that we will thrive politically and economically. Furthermore, I believe it is only a matter of time before we are recognized by most countries of the world.
Let me explain why I am so confident of our future.
c Most important, I am confident because our independence is rooted in a desire for justice, freedom and democracy for the Abkhazian people. I believe what the Martin Luther King said, in a statement heard around the world, "The arc of history is long, but it bends toward justice."
Against our genuine aspirations for freedom, Georgia’s leaders offer a legalistic challenge – the reclaiming of their "territorial integrity," a claim based primarily on extreme nationalism and a shotgun marriage forced upon Abkhazians by Josef Stalin in 1931.
c Second, despite war and blockade, we already have survived as an independent state for 16 years, an accomplishment conveniently disregarded by Georgia’s Western friends.
c Third, we have ample potential as a nation, with a strong ethnic identity and formidable economic potential. Abkhazia’s mild climate and location on the Black Sea makes us an attractive tourism destination and a crossroads for trade between Europe and Asia. We look forward to receiving thousands of visitors during the Winter Olympics in Sochi, only 20 miles north of us.
c Fourth, our people are smiling again. They no longer wear military uniforms or clean their rifles regularly. They no longer dress for mourning. They believe in a future for themselves and for their families.
c Finally, we are confident because we are no longer desperate. We can wait as long it takes for the world to come to its senses.
History tells us that no struggles for independence are regarded as legal by those who oppose them. That was true of the American War for Independence, and it’s true of Abkhazia today. While we go about building our democracy and our economy, the United States and Europe continue to base their policies toward us on a false foundation.
The recent EU report concluded that Georgia started the war last year by indiscriminately killing civilians in South Ossetia, a brutal surprise attack that violated international law. Yet so many Westerners appear more concerned about the legality of our independence than Georgia’s vile and unnecessary attack on civilians.
Perhaps such views are not surprising. The Cold War intellectuals who dominate thinking in Washington and Brussels don’t care about Abkhazia or Abkhazians. Frankly, they don’t care about Georgians either. They care only whether something is good or bad for Russia, which they hate.
Ironically, it is these intellectuals, journalists and the leaders they influence who so hotly criticize us for being reliant on Russian aid and support.
A friend of mine told me about a line from a famous old American movie called "The Big Sleep," in which Humphrey Bogart says, "You know what he’ll do when he comes back? Beat my teeth out, then kick me in the stomach for mumbling." By supporting Georgia’s policy of diplomatic and economic isolation of Abkhazia, the United States and Europe are, figuratively, doing that to us. They give us no alternative, then criticize us for doing what we must to survive.
When the international community denies us banking codes, Russia offers a solution. When we cannot get international railroad codes, Russia agrees to manage our railroads. When we cannot send our sickest citizens to European hospitals, we send them to Moscow. When Georgia blockades us from getting goods by sea, we get them by road and rail from Russia.
If Europe and the United States based their policies on the reality of what is happening now in our region, not on a fantasy that the Georgians will someday restore their "territorial integrity," they would recognize there is a diplomatic path of compromise and humane action that would benefit all citizens of the Caucasus, regardless of their ethnicity.
Though I first ran for office four years ago against the pro-Russia candidate, I’m more grateful than I can say for Russian support at this critical time in our history. But like other Abkhazians, I would leap at the chance to build our economy with support from others. We are an independent country, and we will not accept a future as a ward of any other nation.
I encourage the United States and Europe to join us in seeking a peaceful path forward. Nothing can make us return to rule by Georgian nationalists and despots.
We are convinced that justice eventually will arc in our direction. But it can, and would, arc much sooner with wise international leadership.
Sergei Bagapsh is president of the Republic of Abkhazia. Mr. Bagapsh is a former energy executive who was first elected president in 2005. He is running for re-election.
Caught in a diplomatic trap, the country’s best hope of escape could be a young opposition leader
"Meanwhile, Georgia is in a trap. By clinging to the unreal claim that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are provinces under foreign occupation, Georgia has lost its freedom of manoeuvre. Russia is given a permanent excuse to "intervene to preserve peace", and to tighten its grip on Abkhazia. The threat of fresh conflict means that Georgia’s Nato membership is indefinitely postponed, and that President Saakashvili’s government remains dependent on western, mainly American, support."
The Russians like what they see in Georgia at the moment." Irakli Alasania, the young Georgian whom many in the west would like to see replacing Mikheil Saakashvili as president, was in London this month, commenting bitterly on his country’s diplomatic impotence.
Alasania, at 34, is already an experienced politician with global contacts, especially in the United States, where the Obama administration is showing signs of impatience with Saakashvili’s obstinacy. More than a year after the disastrous war with Russia over South Ossetia, Georgia is still insisting on its "territorial integrity", and yet the de facto independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia has been a reality for 16 years now.
In the wake of the war, Russia formally recognised the independence of both territories. But the outgoing Bush administration, Nato and the European Union all passionately endorsed the Georgian position. Western media still refer to "breakaway Georgian regions". An open letter in last week’s Guardian, signed by the Czech ex-president Vaclav Havel and several other veterans of the 1989 revolutions, urged the world to defend Georgia’s "territorial integrity". The same week, the latest round of Geneva talks on "security in the South Caucasus" broke up without results – a proposed "no use of force" agreement stalled by Georgian reluctance.
But elsewhere the Abkhazian situation has suddenly begun to move. Last week, Venezuela joined Nicaragua and Russia in recognising Abkhazia, a small, fertile strip along the Black Sea coast. Unlike South Ossetia, Abkhazia does not want to become a Russian protectorate, although it is becoming steadily more dependent on Russian military and economic backing.
Last month the Georgian-Abkhazian standoff went naval. A Georgian patrol boat seized a Turkish ship heading for Abkhazia with a cargo of petrol and diesel, and its captain was given a 24-year jail sentence for "smuggling". It was a risky act. Since the August war, the Abkhazian coast has been guarded by Russian missile cruisers from the Black Sea fleet. A few days ago, the Russians sent a patrol boat with the mission to arrest any Georgian ships entering Abkhazian waters. The Black Sea is heating up. Turkish diplomats flew to Georgia and secured the release of their captain. But then, against Georgian advice, one of them went on to hold talks in Sukhum, the Abkhazian capital. It looks as if a new Turkish policy for the region may be emerging.
Turkey has a large Abkhazian minority anxious to break their motherland’s isolation. Can the Georgians be persuaded to allow regular contact between Turkey and Abkhazia – for instance, a ferry service between Sukhum and the port of Trabzon? This could lead to a joint strategy between Georgia, Turkey and Abkhazia, aiming to reduce Abkhazia’s dependence on Russia. That, in turn, could open the way to a Georgian-Abkhazian rapprochement, shelving the "territorial integrity" problem.
Irakli Alasania is about the only Georgian politician whom the Abkhazian leaders respect. His father was killed – some say murdered – in the 1993-94 war as Abkhazia defeated Georgia. And yet when he was in charge of negotiations with them, he was able to reach at least an outline agreement. But President Saakshvili rejected it, and Alasania was "exiled" as ambassador to the UN. On the eve of the war in 2008, he made a flying visit to Sukhum in a vain effort to secure a new understanding. After the war he broke with Saakashvili, and now leads the opposition Our Georgia-Free Democrats party.
In London, Alasania was wary. He still describes the August war as "Russian aggression", though with "mistakes on the Georgian side". But he remains convinced that peaceful association with Abkhazia is possible, and thinks the Abkhaz wish for stability and a secure ethnic identity is sincere.
Meanwhile, Georgia is in a trap. By clinging to the unreal claim that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are provinces under foreign occupation, Georgia has lost its freedom of manoeuvre. Russia is given a permanent excuse to "intervene to preserve peace", and to tighten its grip on Abkhazia. The threat of fresh conflict means that Georgia’s Nato membership is indefinitely postponed, and that President Saakashvili’s government remains dependent on western, mainly American, support.
Maybe Georgian helplessness suits the big powers. It certainly suits Russia. That’s what Irakli Alasania means by the Russians liking what they see. But if he can convert enough voters to a radical new policy, he might be the man to free Georgia from its trap.
Neal Ascherson is a journalist, and author of Black Sea: The Birthplace of Civilisation and Barbarism
An old roommate recently asked me over the phone: “Hey, did you hear that Abkhazia is an officially independent country?” The excitement in his voice and his eagerness to hear my answer were the only things I could hear in that split-second silence before I answered in the affirmative. This former roommate, it just so happens, is an Abkhaz Circassian from Syria, the son of an Abkhaz Kabardin father and an Adigha mother. “Circassian,” “Abkhaz,” “Adigha” were all unfamiliar terminology two years ago, but as I came to discover, Circassians have a very long history in Middle Eastern, as Mamluks, Amirs and Sultans, ruling Syria and Egypt for almost three hundred years. Ramadan 2008 brought me the opportunity to sit down with my friend’s father, a diplomat and a high ranking Abkhaz political figure and to hear an abridged version of the past 100+ years of Circassian history.
The timing of my friend’s question could not have come at a better moment, with Nicaragua and Venezuela’s formal recognition of Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) as independent states the following week. New reports are now buzzing around the possibility of Turkey jumping on the Recognition Band Wagon out of a desire to play “a much greater role in the Caucasus.” As my last piece on Turkey pointed out, Turkey is taking the necessary steps to reach out to Armenia and with recent visits to Tblisi and Sukhumi, Turkey sees Abkhazia’s recognition as a matter of strategy in the region. Georgia’s capture of a Turkish ship in international waters, which the Georgians claim was smuggling oil to Abkhazia, doesn’t help the Georgian cause much either. And while everyone’s playing a harmonious “Recognize ‘Em” chord, perhaps the real motives for Turkey to recognize the two autonomous regions is to gain a little piece of that recognition pie from the Russians with its own “enclave,” the infamous Turkish Republic of North Cyprus, which according to one analyst in one report, is nothing less than “the elder brother of Abkhazia.”
Since 2008, we have grown fond of the idea of thinking of Abkhazia as an “integral part of Georgia,” a territory that cannot nor should be divided from the young nation. The stories we read portray a dominant bully undermining a small and defenseless little camper. We also hear our Politicians coming out and speaking out against Russia’s “occupation” of Georgia, about the ongoing erosion of Georgian sovereignty and the looming threat facing the integrity of the tiny state in the Caucasus. Plus, the international community overwhelmingly tells us that Abkhazia is just a “puppet” in Russian hands, a new Russian outpost within Georgia’s borders.
But what all this really boils down to is the simple fact that many people are comfortable with supporting the system that Stalin, the “Butcher of Georgia,” created and enacted. As an ethnic Georgian (who lusted after Abkhazia), Stalin incorporated Abkhazia into the Georgian SSR in 1931, settling hundreds of thousands of Georgians, Russians and Armenians in Abkhazia and turning the native Abkhaz into a minority in their own country. After the implosion of the Soviet Union, the ’92 Abkhazian war of independence changed the course of events, essentially allowing Abkhazia to gain its independence from Georgia. Since that time, Georgia has refused to accept the facts on the ground, considering Abkhazia to be a historical and integral part of Georgia. That’s like saying that the Western Sahara has always been a part of Morocco.
A careful re-reading of the mostly accurate and somtimes biased timeline and actual reporting of events from 2008 have definitely ingrained the fact that Russia’s new steps towards imperialism are bad news for everyone in the area and that somehow, the West did the “right thing” by refusing to recognize the new states. The Economist said it best when it wrote that Russia “should not be rewarded by any Western country granting the new enclaves recognized independence.” This gives the impression that the Russians simply invaded Georgia and now they are recognizing what they occupied in order to gain a greater foothold in the region.
First of all, what do the Abkhaz want? Where is their voice in all of this? The Abkhaz don’t want to be a part of Georgia and they don’t want to be a part of Russia either. They want to be independent, just like any other country. Anyone who has any real idea of the politics of the region these last 20 years can tell you that. Yes, it is true: Abkhazia does lean Red, but can you blame them for doing so? Who was there for them in the 90’s, following their successful war of independence? The Europeans, the U.N. and to a large extent, the U.S. were all too busy with Yugoslavia and the Balkans and the Americans wouldn’t even come close to dealing or even getting involved with any “breakaway territory” in any part of the world.
Some argue that Russia’s recognition of these two states creates a 21stcentury Russian annexation of Georgian territory. But can we open our eyes for a moment and see that the West essentially abandoned Abkhazia and thus, in a very de facto way, push Abkhazia into the Russian camp, which provided the only means of military and economic support? It is for this reason alone that Russia has stepped in and has essentially bought Abkhazia from Georgia.
While I support Abkhazia and their efforts to be independent and to be free from Georgian occupation, no matter how long it may have been, I feel that our attitude towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia for that matter, is quite childish. What, are we still stuck in the Cold War? Let’s be honest for a moment and recognize that our lack of desire in recognizing the two independent states is less because of the states themselves and more because it is Russia who is seen as the “man behind the curtain,” the one calling the shots. Alienating the two minute territories will only drive them further in their resilience to be Pro-Moscow.
Despite the good that might come out of the recognition of these two independent states, other autonomous or semi-autonomous territories that have desires to secede – in countries like Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and China – might want to follow suit. Russia might even find that even her good-willed steps of recognition could potentially come back to bite her in the ass.
Only time will tell . . .
|Abkhazia, S.Ossetia Recognition Remains ‘Isolated’ – U.S. Says|
|Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 11 Sep.’09 / 10:58|
The fact that Russia “has found” only two other countries – Nicaragua and Venezuela – to recognize Georgia’s breakaway regions “underscores how isolated that view is,” U.S. State Department spokesman, Philip J. Crowley, told reporters on September 10.
Asked about the Venezuelan President’s statement that his country would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Crowley also said: “We continue to believe, as do the vast majority of countries around the world, that South Ossetia and Abkhazia are part of Georgia, and that the solution is not recognizing their independence, but first stabilize the situation and then facilitating their reintegration into recognized Georgia.”
"Venezuela joins the recognition of the independent republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Chavez, who is on a two-day visit to Russia, said during talks with Medvedev in his residence near Moscow.
"We recognize both republics starting from today," Chavez was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency.
Medvedev thanked Chavez for recognizing the Georgian rebel regions, which broke away from Tbilisi’s rule during a war in the early 1990s.
"Thank you Hugo, you have made a whole set of serious, important statements," Medvedev said.
Russia and Georgia fought a five-day war in August last year, when Georgia attacked South Ossetia to try to retake the renegade region that borders Russia. In response, Moscow sent in troops to drive Georgian forces out of the region.
Russia recognized South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states two weeks after the conflict ended.
Venezuela is the third country to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia after Russia and Nicaragua.
|Abhazia hopes swift recognition from Turkey|
|Thursday, 10 September 2009 21:23|
“We certainly hope that Turkey will recognize Abkhazia. There are some positive signals but they have to be materialized. We’re waiting for a more active approach,” Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review in a phone interview.
Turkish Deputy Undersecretary Ambassador Ünal Çeviköz visited Abkhazia on Thursday on the sidelines of Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu’s official talks with Tbilisi. Georgian officials were informed in advance about Çeviköz meetings in Abkhazia, reaffirming that Turkey’s policy of protecting the territorial integrity and political unity of Georgia has not changed.
Abkhazia announced its independence in 1999. But what changed the landscape was Russia’s recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia last year after the war with Georgia. Nicaragua and Venezuela followed Russia, increasing the hopes of this tiny breakaway state.
Turkish foreign policy’s dilemma on the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict rose to the surface once more after a Turkish vessel called Buket was seized in international waters by Georgian coast guards with accusation of smuggling oil to Abkhazia. The captain, Mehmet Öztürk, was sentenced to 24 years in prison, but was released on Monday as a result of Davutoğlu’s talks in Tbilisi.
“The main topic was about the captured ship and our bilateral relations,” Foreign Minister Shamba said in the wake of his talks with Ambassador Çeviköz.
Seeking alliance with Turkey
With hope of a Turkish alliance, Shamba said: “We want Turkey to make its position clear that the capture of a Turkish ship in international waters is not admissible. It is in the interest of regional stability to prevent any escalation from taking place.”
“The talks were constructive,” he said, declining to give further details.
Shamba complained about the lack of direct transportation links with Turkey and urged that Abkhazian diaspora are deeply in need of it. Turkey, however, still supports the economic sanctions imposed against Abkhazia by the Commonwealth of Independent States.
“We’d like to develop economic and humanitarian contact with Turkey. We request opening of communications and passenger transport. It is a big interest because we are neighbors and we have a big Abkhazian diaspora in Turkey,” he said.
Around 500,000 Turkish citizens consider themselves to be of Abkhazian origin. Ambassador Çeviköz’s visit gave hope to those who have been lobbying for recognition of the Abkhazia Republic.
Asked if he was assured that Turkey shifted its policy and might soon recognize Abkhazia, Shamba replied: “It is difficult to say now, but we’ll closely follow the situation and we’d like to maintain contacts with Turkish representatives.”
In response to Shamba’s remarks, Foreign Ministry spokesman Burak Özügergin underscored that “there is no policy change in the Caucasus” in an interview with the Daily News.
Help us to blockade the sea
Apart from the recognition, the Abkhazian foreign minister also expects Turkey to mediate to stop the sea-blockade imposed on them.
Asked what measures they are considering to break the Georgian blockade, he hinted that armed actions are on the agenda, saying: “We are now counter-playing different forms of actions … The actions will be appropriate if needed. Symmetrical actions with the Georgian side – we will see. We hope that this incident is the last one.”
In the hope to intensify political contacts, Shamba expects to have talks in Ankara as well, saying: “We have constant contacts at different levels. If it is needed we can visit. It is possible in the near future, but it’s not yet fixed on the agenda.”
Without hinting at a visit from Abkhazia to Ankara for talks, Özügergin noted: “It is natural to pay attention to this case due to Turkey’s (geographical and political) position and Abkhazian origin population. Our main aim is to contribute to a permanent peaceful solution for the problem."
"Russia’s agreement with Abkhazia on joint patrolling of state borders includes joint activities on ensuring security in the republic’s territorial waters," Marganiya said as quoted by the Interfax news agency.
"Russian and Abkhazian border guards are currently working out a plan of joint actions to stop the Georgian border guards’ piracy in the Black Sea," he added, without elaborating.
Russia recognized Abkhazia and another Georgian rebel region, South Ossetia, as independent states following an August 2008 five-day war with Georgia.
Tbilisi has accused Russia, which has stationed thousands of troops in both regions, of seeking to annex the territories.