Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Statement from President Sergei Bagapsh in response to EU war report findings‏

STATEMENT BY PRESIDENT SERGEI BAGAPSH ON THE RELEASE OF THE EUROPEAN UNION REPORT ON THE 2008 GEORGIA WAR

“The time for debate is over. A nine-month investigation by the European Union has confirmed that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili broke international law when he launched his military attack on South Ossetia on August 7, 2008. It is time for the West to build policies based on this truth, rather than Georgia’s falsehoods.

“Saakashvili’s reckless and hostile behavior towards South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which continues to this day, has changed the political landscape forever. Abkhazia is an independent nation and will never again return to Georgian rule.

“I hope the EU report will open the eyes, ears, and minds of freedom-loving people everywhere to the truth: President Saakashvili is responsible for the August war and the humanitarian crisis it unleashed. If the West is serious about promoting peace in our region, it will push Georgia to sign and adhere to a non-violence pact instead of providing Tbilisi with arms, military training, and billions in aid.

“Abkhazia is building its future as an independent, responsible member of the global community. We urge Europe and the United States to reevaluate their misguided policies to our region based on the incontrovertible facts.”

- Sergei Bagapsh, President, The Republic of Abkhazia

The text in PDF can be downloaded by
clicking here (28.8 Kb)

Interview with Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba

The following Issues Points interview was conducted by Saylor Company with His Excellency Sergei Shamba, Foreign Minister of the Republic of Abkhazia.

IP: Minister Shamba, do you see other nations joining Nicaragua, Russia, South Ossetia, and Venezuela in recognizing Abkhazia as in independent state?

Shamba: We welcome any who do so. We understand that we need to earn recognition, and we are moving forward with an array of nation building programs that will enhance our international standing. But to get to essence of your question, we know some nations are hesitant to recognize us because of their relations with Georgia. We respect their caution. Nevertheless, I say to those nations that the Abkhaz people do not want be part of Georgia ever again. We are a free and independent nation, and other governments should judge us on those criteria, not whether Georgia may be angry with them if they recognize us.

IP: Many around the world feel that Abkhazia is not free and independent, rather it is a satellite of Russia. How do you respond?

Shamba: We definitely have a strong relationship with Russia, with whom we have extensive economic, political and cultural ties. Russia's leaders are helping us economically and protecting us from further Georgia aggression. We are also establishing diplomatic relations with Nicaragua and Venezuela, and of course, we are very close to South Ossetia. With those government-to-government relationships will come economic and cultural cooperation. As more nations recognize Abkhazia, we will expand our relations with them as well. As this network expands, we will be able to contribute even more to the global community and create more opportunities for our people.

IP: Do you think there will be further war between Abkhazia and Georgia?

Shamba: That is completely up to President Saakashvili. Abkhazians do not want war. We have never attacked Georgia, which has attacked us four times in the last ten years. We want to be responsible members of the international community. President Saakashvili claims he wants Georgia to be a respected member of the international community too. Under that logic, Georgia and Abkhazia share the same goal for our countries. However, neither of us can attain it through violence. As I mentioned, Abkhazia is not and never will be part of Georgia. President Saakashvili should acknowledge that and move on. Both of our countries need to flourish in progress, not languish in tension.

IP: That is a reasonable statement, Minister Shamba, yet your country sometimes seems to fuel the flames of tension with Georgia. For example, the positions your country has taken regarding Georgia's confiscation of vessels heading for Abkhazia in the Black Sea. Some might say those positions are unnecessarily provocative.

Shamba: Look, it is President Saakashvili who has triggered unnecessary tension in the Black Sea through his recklessness. He knows that seizing ships bringing essential goods to our citizens is counterproductive to stability in this region. He knows that we cannot simply sit by and let him run roughshod over the well-being of our citizens. I suggest you talk to the Georgian president about unnecessary provocation. Abkhazians are working towards a positive future. We actually do not have time to provoke our neighbors. We would rather not have to deal with such nonsense, but we will not allow President Saakashvili to divert us from our mission.

IP: Do you seriously expect President Saakashvili to simply acknowledge that Abkhazia and South Ossetia are independent from Georgia and not try to administer Georgian law in both?

Shamba: In reality, I don't see that he has any choice. It is time for President Saakashvili to recognize that fact and demonstrate genuine leadership by renouncing violence as a means to regain control of Abkhazia and South Ossetia and turning his attention to the real needs of the Georgian people. How can he be serious about bringing peace and economic prosperity to the region, when he is spending most of his resources and energies on expanding his army and threatening his neighbors?

IP: And you don't see that position as politically naïve?

Shamba: I do not. Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that Abkhazia does not see tremendous challenges in its relations with Georgia for some time to come. But one day, there will be many more countries that recognize us as an independent country. While at the moment, President Saakashvili has dominated the debate over the future of the Caucasus through a vigorous misinformation campaign, he will not be able to do so forever. If he were as astute as he wants the world to believe, he would recognize that and respond responsibly. That does not mean he has to embrace us, but it will not serve Georgia's long-range interests for him to completely reject and attack us, either.

IP: Based on what we just saw at the seventh round of talks in Geneva, it doesn't seem that President Saakashvili agrees with you now, nor will he in the near future. Do you see it that way?

Shamba: Abkhazia will persevere. Sooner or later, Georgia, and its supporters, will recognize that the path to peace in the region will not be achieved by violence and isolation. We are working hard to prepare our country, and our people, for that day. We are confident that history will prove us right. It is up to Georgia, and its leaders, to decide whether they want to be on the right, or wrong, side of that history.

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

A new English-language Web site for the government of Abkhazia has been launched

For centuries, the Republic of Abkhazia, which is located at a strategic crossroads between Europe and Asia, has struggled to maintain its centuries-old culture and identity. Since the devastating 1992-93 war with Georgia, the Abkhaz government has worked hard to rebuild its economy and reach out to the world.

Miles of pristine Black Sea coastline and tree-covered mountains have made Abkhazia a favorite vacation spot for visitors from Russia and other neighboring countries. Our nation is known for its wines and unique cuisine.

Last month, Abkhazia celebrated the one-year anniversary of its official recognition by Russia and Nicaragua, an event that has propelled us onto the world stage. They were recently joined by Venezuela. On September 30, we invite the world to join us in celebrating the 16th anniversary of our victory over Georgian forces.

This website contains information on visiting Abkhazia, as well as promising investment opportunities in trade, agriculture and manufacturing. If you know someone who might share your interest in Abkhazia, please invite them to visit:
http://www.therepublicofabkhazia.org

--Government of the Republic of Abkhazia

The saviour of Georgia? by Neal Ascherson

Caught in a diplomatic trap, the country's best hope of escape could be a young opposition leader.

Neal Ascherson - The Guardian, Monday 28 September 2009

'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 [1992-93 AT] 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.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Georgia - Crisis in the Caucasus

Documentary: Georgia - Crisis in the Caucasus

Journeyman Pictures - 25 min 51 sec [29 September 2008]

As Russian tanks rolled into South Ossetia, the world’s eyes turned East. In the West the message was clear: Georgia falls victim to Russian aggression. But is our media telling us the whole story?

Today Abkhazia, previously a province of Georgia, is celebrating independence after Russian military forced Georgia out of the province. The sky flashes with fireworks and Abkhazians dance in the streets. But few outside share Abkhazia’s enthusiasm. ‘Russia is now directly telling all its neighbours that it will be using force – that it is trying to restore its lost empire’, says Georgi Badrize, a Georgian diplomat. Few in the West would disagree. But in Abkhazia’s Parliament, president Sergey Bagapsh is giving official thanks to Russia. This day, he tells us, marks the end of decades of Georgian abuse. ‘People were starving’, he says. ‘We couldn’t treat our kids, we were not allowed to import medications’. Many Abkhazians are angered by the pro-Georgian stance of Western media. ‘Everybody thinks that the Georgians deserve independence and freedom and the right to be part of the international community’, says humanitarian worker Liana Kvarchelia, ‘and we are not’. Bagapsh claims that it is not only the media that is biased in Georgia’s favour. He provides our reporter with an armed guard and permission to enter the border region between Abkhasia and Georgia, where he claims we will find evidence that the UN and NATO were complicit in Georgia’s illegally stockpiling of weapons for an attack against Abkhazia. A shocking and fascinating report.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Saakashvili - Lies - Contradictory: An example on Georgia's Propaganda

Make the lie big, make it simple, keep saying it, and eventually they will believe it.
Adolf Hitler


-29 April 2008, An excerpt from Saalashvili's speech.''About 450,000-500,000 pride residents of Abkhazia live in exile in their own country. They cannot return to their homes, to their villages, to their family members and relatives, to the graves of their ancestors, to their friends, with whom they found their feet, with whom they were going to school, with whom they grew up.''
http://www.president.gov.ge/?l=E&m=0&sm=3&st=150&id=2597

-25 September 2009
. "Abkhazia today has been emptied of more than three-fourths of its population," he (SAAKASHVILI) said. "Gardens and hotels, theaters and restaurants have been replaced by military bases and graveyards."

Another excertps from different sources:

*****

Some important points:

It's Georgia started the war and created huge humanitarian catastrophy.

On 14 August 1992 when the Abkhazian Parliament was due to discuss discussing a draft proposal for a Federation with Georgia, Georgia invaded Abkhazia.

An excerpt:

''In February 1992, the provisional Georgian Military Council announced Georgia’s return to its 1921 constitution. The Abkhaz Supreme Soviet was concerned that Abkhazia’s status was not adequately taken into consideration and so a draft treaty outlining plans on federal relations was sent to Tbilisi. Tbilisi did not respond and in July 1992 the Abkhaz Parliament reinstated the 1925 Abkhaz Constitution. On 14 August 1992 Georgian armed forces entered the Gali region of Abkhazia...''
http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/about-the-fco/country-profiles/europe/georgia?profile=politics&pg=7

According to the 1989 census there were only 239,872 "Georgians" living in Abkhazia. (See Table 13. ''Ethno-demographic history of Abkhazia, 1886 - 1989, by Daniel Müller.'' [PDF] Some of them NEVER left Abkhazia after 1992 - 93 war.

Georgian population fled before Abkhaz Army entered the occupied territories: See UNPO's report: ''THE MAJORITY OF GEORGIANS, HOWEVER, FLED BEFORE ABKHAZIAN AND NORTHERN CAUCASUS TROOPS ARRIVED.''
http://www.unpo.org/downloads/Abkhazia_Georgia_report_1992.pdf

Abkhazia unilaterally decided to open the gates for the (largely Mingrelian) refugees to return to Abkhazia from Georgia in 1999. Georgia at that time was actually accusing these refugees of being TRAITORS to Georgia. More than 60,000 refugees have been successfully resettled in Abkhazia.

During the war some Kartvelians (Mainly Mingrelians who lived in Abkhazia) fought against to Abkhazians. According to the 1951 UN Convention on Refugees, those who use arms in an armed struggle and then flee do not fall under the international definition of refugees. The responsibility for these people fell and falls solely on the Georgian authorities. It is important to note here that a great many of those who fled from Abkhazia were recent immigrants. They were partly victims of the compulsory resettlement organized by (Georgian) Stalin (Ioseb Besarionis dze Jughashvili) and his Abkhazian-born Mingrelian lieutenant Lavrenti Beria. See: Demographic change in Abkhazia.

Abkhazian society can allow the return only of those Kartvelians who did not fight on the Georgian side and only after they recognize Abkhazia as an independent state. And same right for return should be given also to descendants of Abkhazian refugees from the Caucasian War of the 19. century, who live mostly in Turkey.

The way ahead for Abkhazians, Ossetians and Georgians

The Guardian, Friday 25 September 2009

It is sad to see such figures as Vaclav Havel and Vytautas Landsbergis (Letters, 22 September), whose courage in their states' struggles for independence from the Soviet Union is undeniable, so out of touch as to argue that the European democracies should continue the failed policies of the last two decades with regard to Georgia.

President Saakashvili's 7 August 2008 assault on South Ossetia was simply the latest expression of the ugly nationalism that blighted Georgia's own path to independence. An early result was the 1990-92 war imposed on South Ossetia by Georgia's first post-communist president, the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, followed by the war in Abkhazia (1992-93), initiated by Eduard Shevardnadze. Both wars ended in de facto secession from a Georgia which, without a thought for the republic's minorities, had been unwisely recognised by the international community within its Soviet frontiers in March 1992. At that time, Georgia was headed by a military junta and Shevardnadze had no democratic mandate. Since then, Tbilisi has tried several times to reignite hostilities.

The international community's support for Georgia's claims to territorial integrity has achieved the opposite of the intended goal, pushing Abkhazia and South Ossetia closer to Russia. Russia officially recognised both on 26 August 2008, after its military response to Saakashvili's provocation; since then Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed suit. If Europe wishes to see stability in Transcaucasia, it should pressure Tbilisi to abandon imperial fantasies and to recognise the new states. That will enable normalisation of relations in the region and a subsequent European input of influence and investment to counterbalance that flowing (and increasing) from Russia.

Professor George Hewitt

Honorary consul for Abkhazia
*****

As a member of the pro-European opposition in Georgia, I support the sentiments expressed by Vaclav Havel and others. Whatever our views of President Saakashvili, we want to see our country reunited and an end to the illegal Russian occupation. There is no doubt the 2008 conflict was planned in Moscow and I hope the EU's report will condemn the almost daily Russian provocations in our territory, as well as showing how our government fell into the most obvious trap.

We need to look forward, though. Both sides must respect the terms of the ceasefire. Through trade and incentives, we need to offer the Abkhazians and Ossetians an alternative to Russia. The international community must do far more to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Georgians. But our security in the face of the Russian threat must not come at the expense of a vibrant, healthy democracy or political reconciliation. I have personal experience of negotiating with the Abkhaz and remain optimistic that we can achieve our dream of peaceful coexistence, not just between Abkahzians, Ossetians and Georgians, but also between political opponents in Tbilisi. We will need European support for both.

Irakli Alasania

Leader, Our Georgia Free Democrats
Source: The Guardian

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Statement from Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh in Advance of President Saakashvili's UNGA Speech

September 24, 2009

Statement from Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh in Advance of President Saakashvili's UNGA Speech

President Saakashvili is one of the most dangerous leaders in the world. He has convinced his allies that he supports democracy, yet his own people know that he jails critics and crushes dissent. He speaks of peace, yet he triggers war. His brutal attack on the civilians of South Ossetia in 2008 and his refusal to take responsibility for the unnecessary deaths and widespread damage that resulted is a tragic reminder of his dangerous behavior. His recent confiscation of ships delivering peaceful goods to Abkhazia is yet another example of his reckless decision-making.‏

I understand the United Nations must provide a forum for world leaders, even those who have consistently displayed an inability to tell the truth. But for the U.N. to debate the future of the Abkhazian and Ossetian people without even hearing their voices is unconscionable and smacks of an era when colonial powers unilaterally determined the fate of smaller nations.

If the United Nations is serious about promoting peace in the Caucasus, then it will use its influence to persuade President Saakashvili to renounce violence against his neighbors and to participate in an honest dialogue about a peaceful way forward.

Abkhazians have welcomed back tens of thousands of refugees to the Gal region and have established policies to ensure their safe return and resettlement. We are moving forward to build our nation’s future and secure our position as responsible and productive
members of the international community.

Sergei Bagapsh, President, Republic of Abkhazia

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Black Sea Wars, by Patrick J. Buchanan

AntiWar.com - September 22 - In August, the Georgian navy seized a Turkish tanker carrying fuel to Abkhazia, Georgia’s former province whose declaration of independence a year ago is recognized by Russia but not the West.

The Turkish captain was sentenced to 24 years. When Ankara protested, he was released. Abkhazia has now threatened to sink any Georgian ship interfering in its “territorial waters,” but it has no navy.

Russia, however, has a Black Sea Fleet and a treaty of friendship with Abkhazia, and has notified Tbilisi that the Russian coast guard will assure, peacefully, the sea commerce of Abkhazia.

Not backing down, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili – who launched and lost a war for South Ossetia in 48 hours in August 2008 – has declared the blockade of Abkhazia, which he claims as Georgian national territory, will remain in force. And he has just appointed as defense minister a 29-year-old ex-penitentiary boss with a questionable record on human rights who wants to tighten ties to NATO.

We have here the makings of a naval clash that Georgia, given Russian air, naval, and land forces in the eastern Black Sea, will lose.

What is Saakashvili up to? He seems intent on provoking a new crisis to force NATO to stand with him and bring the United States in on his side – against Russia. Ultimate goal: Return the issue of his lost provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia back onto the world’s front burner.

While such a crisis may be in the interests of Saakashvili and his Russophobic U.S neoconservative retainers, it is the furthest thing from U.S. national interests. President Obama should have Joe Biden, Saakashvili’s pal, phone him up and instruct him thus: “Mikheil, if you interfere with the sea commerce of Abkhazia, and provoke Russia into a Black Sea war, you fight it yourself. The Sixth Fleet is not going to steam into the Black Sea and pull your chestnuts out of the fire, old buddy. It will be your war, not ours.”

Nor is the Abkhazian crisis the only one brewing in the Black Sea.

Last month, Russian naval troops blocked Ukrainian bailiffs from seizing navigational equipment from a lighthouse outside Sevastopol, the Crimean base of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet for two centuries.

The Sevastopol lease, however, runs out in 2017. And Kiev has informed Moscow there will be no renewal. Russia’s fleet will have to vacate Sevastopol and the Crimea, which belonged to Russia before Nikita Khrushchev ceded the entire peninsula to Ukraine in 1954 in a “brotherly gesture” while Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union.

Russia also bears a deep animus toward Ukrainian President Victor Yushchenko, for trying to bring his country into NATO. Yushchenko, whose approval rating is in single digits, has been seen, ever since the U.S.-backed Orange Revolution of 2004 that brought him to power, as America’s man in Kiev.

Moreover, as religious, cultural, ethnic, and historic ties between Kiev and Moscow go back centuries, Russians remain unreconciled to the loss of what they regard as the cradle of their country.

What is America’s vital interest in all these quarrels? Zero.

The idea, mentioned in hawkish quarters, of having the Sixth Fleet take over the vacated naval base at Sevastopol would be as rash and provocative an act as having Chinese warships move into Guantanamo, were Havana to expel the United States.

But that is unlikely to happen. For Obama appears to be rolling back the George W. Bush policy of expanding NATO into former republics of the Soviet Union.

Lithuania, Latvia, and Estonia are already members, and Bush and John McCain were anxious to bring in Ukraine and Georgia. But, as Bush’s inaction during the Russia-Georgia war revealed, America is not going to fight Russia over who controls Abkhazia, North or South Ossetia, Dagestan, Ingushetia, Chechnya, or Georgia. All are beyond any vital interest or legitimate sphere of influence of the United States.

With his cancellation of the U.S. missile shield in Poland and the Czech Republic – a shield designed to defend against a nonexistent Iranian ICBM – Obama sent two messages to Moscow.

First, Obama believes entente with Russia is a surer guarantee of the peace and security of Eastern Europe than any U.S. weapons system. Second, Obama puts Washington-Moscow ties before any U.S. military ties to NATO allies in Eastern Europe.

Which means NATO is approaching an existential crisis.

Almost all NATO troops, except U.S., are gone from Iraq, and the alliance’s minimal commitment to Afghanistan is ending with no victory in sight. NATO’s expansion eastward has come to a halt. Ukraine and Georgia are not coming in. And the United States is not going to place troops, warships, or missiles any closer than they are now to Russia’s frontiers.

“NATO must go out of area, or go out of business,” said Sen. Richard Lugar at the Cold War’s end. NATO went out of area, and is coming back with its tail between its legs. The alternative arises.

EU Report: Independent Experts Blame Georgia for South Ossetia War

Spiegel Online - Sept. 21 - An EU expert commission has put the blame for last summer's South Ossetia war on Georgia, but also holds Russia partly responsible, SPIEGEL has learned. The findings, which are still under wraps, are likely to reignite the debate on the causes of the war when they are published.

The independent commission appointed by the European Union to investigate the war between Georgia and Russia last summer has concluded that Tbilisi is responsible for causing the five-day conflict, SPIEGEL has learned.


According to diplomats in Brussels who are familiar with the contents of the secret document, the EU experts also assign part of the responsibility for the war to Russia, however. The report, which stems from an initiative by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier and his colleagues from the Benelux countries, concludes that Moscow escalated the conflict through its massive deployment of troops.

The international commission, which is headed by Heidi Tagliavini, wants to keep its findings under wraps until next week because the Swiss diplomat first wants to present the controversial results to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in New York. After that, the ambassadors of the 27 EU member states in Brussels and the Georgian and Russian governments will be simultaneously informed of the commission's findings.

The publication of the report is set to spark renewed debate about who is responsible for the war. Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has already complained that "some idiots say we started the war." Tbilisi is mainly afraid that the report will reduce the chances of Georgia being allowed to join NATO within the near future.

The conflict broke out on Aug. 7, 2008 when Georgia attacked the breakaway region of South Ossetia. Russian forces quickly repelled the Georgian attack and advanced into Georgia. Hundreds of people, including many civilians, are believed to have died during the fighting before a ceasefire was agreed upon on Aug. 12.
dgs/spiegel
  • Photo: Georgian army rocket batteries firing on Ossetian cities and villages

Friday, 18 September 2009

7th round of Geneva discussions on stability in Transcaucasia begins

GENEVA, September 17 (Itar-Tass) - The 7th round of Geneva discussions on security and stability in Transcaucasia began in Geneva on Thursday.

The consultations involve delegations of Abkhazia, Georgia, Russia, the United States and South Ossetia. They are underway under the auspices of the U.N., the EU and the OSCE.

The discussions are holding at the Geneva’s headquarters of the International Labour Organisation within the format of two working groups – for security and for humanitarian issues. Before the consultations the Russian Foreign Ministry said, “Russia’s priorities are to solve security problems in the region.” “It’s the main purposes of Russia’s proposals in Geneva, first of all on a draft agreement on the non-use of force between Georgia, Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the ministry.

The Geneva discussions take place from October 2008 in compliance with the agreements reached by Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and French President Nicolas Sarkozy. The agreements were reached after Georgia’s aggression against South Ossetia on August 8, 2008.

Russia is represented by Deputy Foreign Minister Grigory Karasin, South Ossetia by presidential plenipotentiary envoy for the post-conflict settlement Boris Chochiyev and Abkhazia by presidential aide for international issues Vyacheslav Chirikba. Georgia’s delegation is headed by Deputy Foreign Minister Georgy Bokeriya.

After the talks the delegations and organisers will hold separate press conferences.

Earlier this month, U.N. Special Representative Johan Verbeke visited Abkhazia for talks with its leadership. Verbeke said the U.N. is satisfied with the five-party meetings and their results. It is important the U.N. to be involved in this process and chair the meetings, he stressed.

He also said the meeting also focused on winding up the U.N. Mission in Abkhazia. In his words, by the end of September the U.N. Monitoring Mission in Georgia will be fully disbanded and leave Abkhazia. At the same time, Verbeke said the U.N. would take part in peace talks to stabilise the situation.

President Sergei Bagapsh said Abkhazia would continue to take part in the Geneva process and did not share international mediators’ intention to delay the discussions.

In his annual address to the parliament in June, Bagapsh said, “In the future the Geneva process can acquire a new form, which will replace the former scheme within the U.N. Secretary-General Group of Friends.”

“The fate of the Geneva discussions will mostly depend on a new U.N. mandate. Today we can say there is understanding on changed conditions and the world community really assesses the situation in Abkhazia,” Bagapsh said.

In his words, “The May 18 report by the U.N. Secretary-General does not mention that Abkhazia is part of Georgia. There is no formula as ‘Abkhazia, Georgia’, ‘de facto authorities’.” The president stressed that for the first time “the U.N. Secretary-General is neutral”. In his opinion, “such approach proves of flexibility that the U.N. is ready to express towards Abkhazia.”

Turkey-Abkhazia relations after Çeviköz

by Hasan Kanbolat, Today's Zaman - 17 September 2009

During Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu's visit to Tbilisi on Sept. 8-9, Foreign Ministry Deputy Undersecretary Ünal Çeviköz drove to the Abkhaz capital of Sukhum[i], where he met with Abkhaz officials.

The visit was reported as the first visit to Abkhazia by a Western diplomat since the five-day war between Georgia and Russia (Aug. 8-12, 2008). However, Abkhazia is a place Western diplomats frequently visit. EU Special Representative for the South Caucasus Peter Semneby was in Sukhum[i] in July.

Çeviköz is an experienced diplomat who has served as the Turkish ambassador to Azerbaijan, worked effectively to relieve tension in the region during the five-day war and brought the Caucasus Stability and Cooperation Platform to the agenda. He knows the region's problems very well. He knows better than anyone else that the last bridges between Abkhazia and Georgia were burned after the five-day war. Moreover, following Russia and Nicaragua, Venezuela also recognized Abkhazia's independence. Bolivia is said to be next in line. A three-person delegation from Abkhazia traveled around Latin America last week to accelerate the process of Latin American countries recognizing Abkhazia's independence. During a period in which Abkhazia's independence process has begun to gain momentum month by month, Çeviköz could not have gone to Sukhum[i] to engage in efforts to restart a peace process between Abkhazia and Georgia. Therefore, we can presume that a new process is going to start between Turkey, Georgia and Abkhazia. In other words, to prevent Abkhazia from unifying with the Russian Federation any further, Ankara may have asked Tbilisi to allow a controlled relationship with Abkhazia. To be more explicit, the door may be opened to preventing Georgia from disturbing ships on humanitarian missions or those involved in trade traveling between Turkey and Abkhazia over the Black Sea.

Turkey is rediscovering Abkhazia with the help of geographical, ethnic and cultural closeness. It has entered into an unstoppable multidimensional integration process with Abkhazia. A close relationship is being established with Abkhazia similar to the multidimensional relationship established with Cypriot Turks in the east Mediterranean region. The Black Sea is no longer a sea that separates Turkey and Abkhazia. Abkhazia is becoming one with the Black Sea coastline of Turkey.

Opening commercial ship transportation and a ferryboat line between Sukhum[i] and Turkish ports on the Black Sea (İstanbul, Samsun, Trabzon) will boost confidence in solving the problem. The Abkhaz people will become interested in Turkey, in other words, the West.

The southwestern Caucasus region (Turkey, Georgia, Abkhazia) will be completely open to humanitarian and trade activity. The southwestern Caucasus, which were once divided by security barriers during the Cold War period, will reunite through intense cross-border cooperation. This will give Ankara the opportunity to improve relations between Tbilisi and Sukhum[i], even if only slightly. In conclusion, in the post-Cold War period, in order for the Black Sea region to become integrated, new policies concerning Abkhazia are necessary.

Hasan Kanbolat, Director of ORSAM

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Sukhum-Abkhazian Diocese renamed into Abkhazian Orthodox Church

SUKHUM, September 16 (Itar-Tass) - The Sukhum-Abkhazian Diocese has been renamed into the Abkhazian Orthodox Church with the Sukhum and Pitsunda Patriarchates, the Church Head Priest Vissarion Apliaa said on Abkhazian television on Wednesday.

According to him, the decision to rename the diocese was made on Wednesday at a meeting with the participation of all Abkhazian clergy with the aim of restoration of the Abkhazian Orthodox Church that had its own local ecumenical validity, but lost it in 1795.

“Today we have the understanding that the history of Christianity in Abkhazia has its roots in deep antiquity,” said Apliaa. According to him, “Seventeen years ago Georgia committed not only a military and political, but also spiritual aggression against Abkhazia.” “Abkhazia in no way can be an integral part of Georgia, and the Sukhum-Abkhazian Diocese that was within the Georgian Catholicosate ceased to exist,” the Abkhazian Orthodox Church Head stated.

He said he intended to turn to Patriarch of Moscow and All-Russia Kirill for help and support of the decision made at the meeting of the Abkhazian clergy. The Abkhazian Church intends to send the same appeal to the Georgian Church, local churches of Constantinople, Jerusalem and all Orthodox churches that “by their determination will restore the historical truth that the long-suffering people of Abkhazia deserve.”

“We take our actions correctly without violating Orthodox canons and rules. Under canonical rules Georgia has no authority in the territory of Abkhazia,” Father Vissarion noted. “We want to restore the historical justice, and nobody will be able to take from us the truth given by God,” he added.

Apliaa promised that the “Abkhazian Orthodox Church will pray for the unity of those who live in our country so that peace be restored in Abkhazia.”

The Abkhazian Orthodox Church also addressed the country’s President Sergei Bagapsh, parliament, government and all the power players with a request to support the decision of the Church, because this “has huge historical significance” and hopes for their support.

Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Medvedev says ties with Georgia could resume after Saakashvili

MOSCOW, September 15 (RIA Novosti) - Russian President Dmitry Medvedev reiterated on Tuesday that he saw no possibility of restoring bilateral relations with Georgia under its current leader, Mikheil Saakashvili.

Switzerland has represented Russia's interests in Georgia and Georgian interests in Russia since diplomatic ties were cut between the two sides following last August's five-day war between Moscow and Tbilisi over the former Georgian republic, South Ossetia.

"If we are talking about the present government meaning the current President Mikheil Saakashvili, it is an absolute no," Medvedev told a meeting of the Valdai Discussion Club in Moscow.

"If we are talking about a future government without Saakashvili, certainly, there is [the possibility] for a resumption in diplomatic relations," the Russian leader said.

Medvedev pledged not to accelerate the global recognition process for South Ossetia and another former Georgian republic, Abkhazia.

"As for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the process is underway, though it is quite slow. I said initially this does not matter to us, what matters is having our citizens protected, that people feel safe," the Russian president said.

He said Russia would be happy if its partners were ready to recognize the two republics as independent, just like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez did last week.

"He [Hugo Chavez] said he would tell others... I have no objections, but I will not speed it up either just because I do not think it is appropriate," Medvedev said.

On August 26, Abkhazia and South Ossetia celebrated the first anniversary of Russia's recognition of their independence. Until Chavez' visit to Moscow, Nicaragua had been the only other country to have recognized the two republics as independent.

Spotlight: President of Abkhazia speaks

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez announced that his country now recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Venezuela became the third member of the United Nations after Russia and Nicaragua to support the independence of these countries. Will the process of the recognition continue? And how is life in Abkhazia one year after the 2008 war in the Caucasus? Well be talking about it with the President of Abkhazia, Sergey Bagapsh. (RT)




Venezuela, Abkhazia to establish diplomatic ties

CARACAS, September 15 (Itar-Tass) - The deputy foreign ministers of Venezuela and Abkhazia, Francisco Aria-Cardenas and Maxim Gvindzhiya, met here on Monday to discuss the establishment of diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Abkhazia.

Francisco Aria-Cardenas presented a note on Venezuela’s recognition of Abkhazia’s independence to Gvindzhiya. The meeting passed in a warm and friendly atmosphere,” Gvindzhiya told Itar-Tass. He noted that an agreement on establishing diplomatic relations between Abkhazia and Venezuela would be signed in the next few days

The Abkhazian deputy foreign minister said that the decision of President Hugo Chavez to recognize the independence of Abkhazia had become “ a very vital step in global terms.”

“In fact, Venezuela’s decision contributed to establishing stability in the Caucasian region. This is something what the United States and the European Union have tried to do for many years but failed,” Mr. Gvindzhiya went on to say.

The conversation with Francisco Aria Cardenas dwelt on political and economic cooperation. Abkhazia has requested Venezuela to create a platform for lobbying the recognition of Abkhazia’s independence in Latin America.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Abkhazia hopes for Latin America, Mideast recognition

MOSCOW, September 11 (RIA Novosti) - Abkhazia hopes both the entire Latin American continent and the Middle East will recognize its independence, the president of the former Georgian republic said on Friday.

On Thursday, Venezuela joined Russia and Nicaragua in recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as sovereign states, a move condemned by Georgia, which considers the republics part of its territory.

"There is such an opportunity, but we are not propelling the process. We are working not only on the Caribbean countries, we are also working on the Middle East and European nations and organizations," Sergei Bagapsh told the Russia Today news channel.

Nicaragua and Abkhazia signed on Thursday an agreement on establishing diplomatic relations.
Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba earlier told RIA Novosti that Venezuela's recognition "could spark a cascade" of similar acts on the part of other Latin American countries.

Russia recognized the two republics shortly after the end of last August's war with Georgia over South Ossetia, which began when Georgian forces attacked the republic in an attempt to bring it back under central control.

14 Years Passed Since Death of Prominent Public Figure and Politician of Abkhazia Yuri N. Voronov

September 11 - SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA - Today 14 years ago a prominent public figure and a politician of Abkhazia Jury Nikolaevich Voronov perished. The Vice Prime Minister, a MP, a world-known scientist Yuri Voronov was viciously slain on the night from September 11 to September 12, 1995 at his apartment’s threshold.

Today, on September 11, his friend, family, schoolchildren have laid flowers to Yuri Voronov's grave.


Obituary: Yuri Voronov

by George Hewitt - The Independent (London) - Sep 15, 1995

The assassination of Yuri Voronov at his home in Sukhum, capital of the tiny Transcaucasian Republic of Abkhazia, robbed the Abkhazians of not only their Deputy Prime Minister but also a staunch champion of their struggle to establish their right to self-determination.

Born in 1941, Voronov specialised in the archaeology and ancient history of the western Caucasus. He published widely, his books including In the World of Abkhazia's Architectural Monuments (1978) and Dioskuriada- Sebastopolis-Tskhum (1980) - three older, foreign designations for Sukhum (Aqwa to the Abkhazians). His academic career was spent at Abkhazia's Research Institute (burnt to the ground with its irreplaceable archive by the Georgians in late 1992); here he distinguished himself as director of the excavations in the mountain settlement of his native Tsebelda, where he was granted honorary citizenship.

Voronov was ethnically Russian with a Georgian wife; his objectivity soon saw him experiencing the same obstacles Abkhazian scholars faced when presenting arguments that questioned the doctrines of Abkhazian history and identity propounded by Georgian colleagues - from 1931 to 1991 Abkhazia was a mere autonomous republic within the Republic of Georgia, and the Georgian Academy controlled all archaeological research within its Soviet bailiwick. Voronov wrote in 1992:

When in 1966 I began to concern myself with the study of Abkhazia, my first articles in Moscow scholarly journals resulted in the procurator issuing a search-warrant against me and in further victimisation. Since I persevered in my investigations, matters reached such a pitch that the government of Georgia in 1979 obtained, through the agency of the Soviet Politburo ideologue Mikhail Suslov, a special veto over the publication of my books in Moscow publishing houses on the grounds that my work was not in harmony with the "achievements" of Georgian scholars!

A somewhat other-worldly intellectual, Voronov nevertheless keenly sensed the dangers of otherwise respectable scholars succumbing to the blandishments of nationalism and outspokenly challenged unfounded speculation by certain Georgian historians and linguists about the origins of the Abkhazians. This earned him much animosity, and in the Georgian-Abkhazian clashes of 1989 his house-cum-museum in Tsebelda was torched.

Like his Abkhazian colleague the Hittologist Vladislav Ardzinba, now President of Abkhazia, Voronov was propelled from scholarly life at the institute into full-time politics with the collapse of the Soviet Union, becoming leader of the Abkhazian branch of the organisation Russian Home, producing (with his fellow human rights commissioner Natela Akaba) detailed reports on Georgian human rights abuses during the war of 1992-93, and co-compiling The White Book of Abkhazia 1992-93: documents, materials, testimonies.

Visiting the UK in 1993, he argued that Boris Yeltsin had been consulted about and approved Eduard Shevardnadze's assault on Abkhazia. His deep understanding of the issues from his participation in the UN-sponsored peace talks made him an implacable opponent of the federation with Georgia that a less knowledgeable and sympathetic world is demanding for his homeland.

Following a civic reception in Sukhum's twin-town Kilmarnock, he took enormous pleasure in a lightning visit to the Edinburgh home of Sir Walter Scott, a long-standing favourite.

George Hewitt

Yuri Nikolayevich Voronov, politician and archaeologist: born Tsabal, Abkhazia 8 May 1941; died Sukhum, Abkhazia 11 September 1995.

Related issue

Friday, 11 September 2009

Abkhazia and Nicaragua officially establish diplomatic relations

11 September 2009 - RT - Abkhazia and Nicaragua have formally signed agreements establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.

The agreement comes a day after another Latin American country – Venezuela – officially recognized the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"An Abkhaz delegation is currently in Latin America. Abkhaz foreign ministry officials met with the Nicaraguan president and signed the relevant agreement yesterday [Thursday]," Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told Interfax.

Russia’s ambassador to Nicaragua praised the signing.

"These documents have special significance for practical connections between the two republics and they will help to flesh out the bilateral relationship with tangible content," Russia's ambassador to Nicaragua, Igor Kondrashov, said.

Abkhaz diplomats are also planning to visit the capital of Nicaragua, Caracas, on Friday, where they will also meet with Venezuelan leadership.

In the early nineties, after the Soviet Union collapsed, Abkhazia and South Ossetia fought for their independence from Georgia, which still considers both to be part of its territory.

In August last year, Russia became the first UN member to recognize the two small countries and establish diplomatic ties.

Abkhaz Delegation's Visit in Latin American Countries Goes On

10 September 2009 - SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA

The delegation of Abkhazia’s visit in Latin American countries goes on. On Wednesday night, September 9, the Republic of Abkhazia representatives were received by the Minister for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua Samuel Santos Lopez, said the chief of the Information Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Irakly Tuzhba, being in Nicaragua as a part of the Abkhaz delegation.

During the meeting the parties have exchanged opinions concerning socio-economic and political situation in the republics and discussed possibilities of developing bilateral mutual relations in all the directions of intergovernmental cooperation.

The republic of Nicaragua is one of the leading Latin American countries in agriculture, including meat and milk products, coffee, cocoa and other crops which are traditionally cultivated in Latin America. Thus, there is a possibility of mutually advantageous cooperation in trade and economic sphere.

The Nicaraguan side once again confirmed full support of independence and sovereignty of the Republic of Abkhazia, emphasizing the line to build a modern, economically developed state is right.

According to Maxim Gvindzhiya, the deputy Foreign Minister, “the recognition of independence of Abkhazia became an obvious example that the Nicaragua’s leadership follows independent foreign policy based on the principles of justice”.

Following the meeting’s results the drafts of the “Protocol on consultations between the Ministries for Foreign Affairs of Nicaragua and Abkhazia" and the “Joint statement on establishment of diplomatic contacts between the Republic of Abkhazia and the Republic of Nicaragua" were handed over to the Abkhaz party for agreement.

The signing ceremony is set for September 10 and will be held in the presence of the President of Nicaragua.

Austrian Businessmen Think There's What to See, Where to Have A Rest in Abkhazia

10 September 2009 - SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA

The Minister for Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba has received a group of Austrian businessmen and representatives of an Austria’s airline.

The meeting in the Ministry for Foreign Affairs had an orientation character. The European business representatives were interested in the situation in Abkhazia, economy development, as well as in the possibility of establishing cooperation in the field of tourism.
The Austrian businessmen regretted deliberately negative information about Abkhazia is being spread in a number of European countries. They said Europeans are being warned against trips to Abkhazia. According to the Austrian businessmen there is what to see and where to have a rest in Abkhazia.
Offers on the possibility of arranging trips to Europe for Abkhazia’s residents have been also made at the meeting.

Abhazia hopes swift recognition from Turkey

Döndü Sarıışık, September 10, 2009

ANKARA - Hürriyet Daily News

Turkish foreign policy’s dilemma on the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict is rising to the surface once more. ‘We certainly hope that Turkey will recognize Abkhazia. There are some positive signals," Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said following his talks with high-ranked Turkish diplomat Ünal Çeviköz.

The first-ever visit by a high-ranking Turkish diplomat to the self-proclaimed Abkhazia Republic has boosted the breakaway republic's hopes of being recognized by Turkey.

“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."

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Venezuela to recognize S.Ossetia, Abkhazia as independent states - Chavez




Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez announced that the country now recognizes South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent nations.

“Venezuela joins the recognition of independence of the republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia,” the South American leader said during his visit to Russia.

He added that Caracas will soon take action to establish official diplomatic links with both countries.

Commenting on the news, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said: “We always said it was the sovereign right of every nation to either recognize them or not to, so this is a big commitment.”

He thanked Chavez for supporting Russia in taking heart in the fate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Venezuela became the third member of the United Nations after Russia and Nicaragua to support the independence of the former Georgian republics.

Russia recognized them shortly after defending South Ossetia from at attack by Georgian forces in 2008.

The majority of other nations, including four other members of the UN Security Council opposed the move, saying that the principle of territorial integrity was more important in this case than the right of nations to self-determination.

He thanked Chavez for supporting Russia in taking heart in the fate of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Statement From The Press-Service For The Ministry For Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Abkhazia

8 September 2009

SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA

A regular pentalateral meeting devoted to the mechanism of incident prevention and response attended by the representatives of the Abkhaz, Georgian, Russian parties, the EU and the United Nations took place on September 8.

The main question raised by the Abkhaz party during the meeting concerned tension escalation in the Black sea in connection with seizure of vessels bounding for Abkhazia by the Georgian coast guards in neutral waters.

The Abkhaz party stated such actions were not law competent, especially considering there were exclusively peaceful cargoes on board the seized ships. Speaking about illegality of such actions, the Abkhaz party pointed, in particular, to Georgia’s violation of the international law fixed in the 1958 Geneva Convention and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea according to which the Georgian authorities’ actions are classified only as piracy. The Abkhaz party called the meeting moderators to pay attention to the threat of a new aggression from the part of Georgia leading to situation destabilization in the region. The Georgian party justifies its actions by the national legislation which, allegedly, says that the Georgian authorities can pursue and seize vessels even in neutral waters if it threatens Georgia’s national interests thus, indirectly, confirmed the fact of Georgia’s violation of the international law and again revealed Georgia’s position that it will use in future methods of piracy if these actions contradict the norms of the international law.

However the head of the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia Mr. Haber confirmed inadmissibility of tension escalation in the Black sea and stated the use of force must be stopped at any cost. However the Abkhaz party representative Ruslan Kishmariya said if Georgia continues with the embargo and prevents peaceful ships from entering Abkhazia’s ports, the Abkhaz party reserves to itself the right to destroy the military ships of the Georgian coast guards.

The Georgia’s representatives raised and put on the agenda the following items: the item of access restriction for the Gal district schoolchildren to the schools in Zugdidi and Tsalendzhikha, increase of the Russian helicopters flights over the Georgian police posts, as well as the incident taken place on August 28, 2009 when, according to the Georgia’s representatives, the Georgian passage point was fired upon in the direction from Otobai.

The Russian side representatives said in connection with the establishment of the corresponding procedures on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, explanatory work with the Gal district residents with a view to avoid incidents with trespassing is in progress. Ruslan Kishmariya mentioned there are enough schools in the Gal district and if there are those who wish to study in Georgia they “may go there and no privileges will be done for anybody”. It was decided explanatory work is necessary and the parties will return to this item discussion at the following meeting, especially, as Mr. Haber said, the academic year in Georgia begins on September 14 and it is necessary to monitor at the local level.

As to the Georgian party’s statement regarding fire upon the Georgian passage point, Kishmariya said it could not be fired upon from the territory of Abkhazia since the passage point is to 1 km from the border and the reason was a conflict with a gangster group.

Discussing the item of “increase of the Russian helicopters flights over the Georgian police posts”, the Russian side representative said there is no exact data on this question and drew attention to increase of the Georgian drones flights over the territory of Abkhazia. To what the Georgian side representatives said the drones do not belong to Georgia and “the Abkhaz party can bring them down”.

The Abkhaz party put forward a proposal to hand over to David Sigua's family the results of the independent investigation conducted by the UN Mission. It was decided if the parties involved in the investigation do not object the Sigua’s case will be handed over to the family.

The following pentalateral meeting is set for September 22, 2009 which, as the parties agreed, will be also held in Gal.

Statement From The Press-Service For The Ministry For Foreign Affairs of The Republic of Abkhazia


8 September 2009, SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA

Received from the Presidential Administration of the Republic of Nicaragua on 01.09.2009 Translation from Spanish.

THE GOVERNMENT OF NATIONAL RECONCILIATION AND UNITYTHE PEOPLE, THE PRESIDENT
Managua, August 31, 2009

To Comrade Sergey Bagapsh,
The President of the Republic of Abkhazia

Dear Comrade President!

One year ago the people of the Republic of Abkhazia underwent tense ordeal when acts of terrorism were taking place in South Ossetia as a result of brutal attacks made by Mikhail Saakashvili's regime. Military aggression caused death and horror in the families of peaceful population. The Russian Federation’s peacekeepers promoting peace and security of the people living in the mentioned Transcaucasia region were also attacked. During the Georgian aggression the weapons forbidden by the International Convention, including cluster ammunition, multiple rocket launcher systems and 500-millimetre bombs were used.

On September 5 it is a year since the date of signing the Decree on the recognition of independence of the Republic of Abkhazia by the Government of the National Reconciliation and Unity of Nicaragua followed the recognition made by the Russian Federation. Under the prevailing circumstances the independence recognition was solely correct decision which promoted security of the population of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as peace and security on their borders with Georgia.

Tragical events in South Ossetia have once again shown to the international community there is no alternative to peaceful ways of disputes and conflicts settlement. Unfortunately, at the cost of innocent people’s life. Military criminals must be punished.

The Nicaraguan people highly appreciate the big contribution to promoting region’s stability and security made by the Russian military frontier guards, deployed on the territory of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the basis of corresponding bilateral arrangements completely meeting the international legal regulations. The Russian contingent maintain contacts with the EU observers deployed on the Georgian territories adjoining the borders of Abkhazia and South Ossetia on the basis of last year's peace arrangements reached between Presidents Dmitry Medvedev and Nicolas Sarkozy.

The resent Chairman of the Government of the Russian Federation Comrade Vladimir Putin’s visit to Abkhazia is evidence that strengthening bilateral relations with your Republic is a priority for Moscow. From our side, the Government of Nicaragua will continue to render political and moral support to the brotherly people of Abkhazia and to develop close intergovernmental cooperation. We will continue to make efforts in future for ensuring strengthening of your country’s position on the international arena.

In spite of the fact that at the moment only Russia and Nicaragua recognized independence of new Transcaucasia nations, expansion of the process of the international recognition of independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia - whatever distant it may seem - will promote, undoubtedly, further strengthening of peace and security in the region.

It is obvious there should be no pressure in such sensitive international legal questions: each member of the international community defines its foreign policy priorities independently. However it is clear that without recognition of new military-political and legal realities in Transcaucasia it will be impossible to develop and expand any forms of international presence in the territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

Participation of these republics’ representatives on par with the western partners in the Geneva discussions on stability and security in Transcaucasia, as well as joint mechanisms on incidents prevention and response in the border districts, undoubtedly, confirms Sukhum and Tskhinval’s opinions when considering this region’s vital questions must be taken into account obligatorily.

Accept, Comrade Bagapsh, greetings and solidarity of the People and the Government of the civil power of Nicaragua to the People and the Government of the Republic of Abkhazia.

Daniel Ortega Saavedra

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

A history erased - Abkhazia's archive: fire of war, ashes of history

To whom it may concern,

In addition to the many unspeakable tragedies of the Balkan wars, one act of cultural vandalism caught the world's attention, as it happened as the world's cameras were trained on Bosnia-Herzegovina. This was the destruction of the Library of Sarajevo, which stored manuscripts and other documents recording the multi-cultural heritage of the state, at the end of August 1992. With help from libraries and cultural organisations around the world, many of the losses were made good in the post-war years of reconstruction.

Two months after the Sarajevo library was left in ruins, similar deliberate acts were perpetrated in another part of Europe in a war which was never the centre of media-attention, though the consequences of the war resurfaced in August 2008 with Russia's recognition of the Republic of Abkhazia in Transcaucasia. Georgian troops entered Abkhazia on 14th August 1992, sparking a 14-month war. At the end of October, the Abkhazian Research Institute of History, Language and Literature named after Dmitry Gulia, which housed an important library and archive, was deliberately torched by the invaders, who were bent on destroying the documentary evidence that proved Abkhazians' residence in their historical homeland; also targeted was the capital's public library. Though help to restore the losses has come from institutions and private donors in Russia, no further assistance has been offered by the wider international community. The short film you are about to watch is designed to alert the world to this cultural loss and thereby to encourage all in a position to do so to make the kind of help described above for Sarajevo available also to Abkhazia.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Visit of Ministry For Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia's Delegation in Latin American Countries Goes On

SUKHUM, ABKHAZIA - September, 7 - The visit of the delegation of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia in the Latin American countries goes on. On September 2 in Caracas (Venezuela), in the Grand-Malia hotel a meeting with the delegation of the Republic of Abkhazia and the diplomatic corps representatives in Caracas took place.

The Abkhaz delegation including the deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs Maxim Gvindzhiya, the State Protocol of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs chief Asida Inapshba, the chief of the Information Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs Irakly Tuzhba and a MP Sener Gogua has had a number of meetings with Ambassadors of Latin American countries in Venezuela.

At the meetings the possibility of cooperation development with Abkhazia in different spheres was discussed. “All the meetings have been held in a warm, friendly atmosphere, and the Latin American states have openly expressed support to the Russia and Nicaragua’s decision to recognize independence of Abkhazia”, the chief of the Information Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia Irakly Tuzhba told “Apsnypress”.

On September 3 M. Gvindzhiya's meeting with the Ambassadors of Honduras, Nicaragua, Bolivias, Argentina, Chile took place. The prospects of development of mutual relations in economic, cultural, educational and other spheres were being discussed there.

“Besides, the possibility of establishing interaction with the ALBA organisation including such countries as Venezuela, Honduras, Nicaragua, Cuba Bolivia, etc. whose activity aims at strengthening cooperation between Latin American countries and other interested states was discussed”, Tuzhba said.

At the same time prospects of the recognition of independence of Abkhazia by the Latin American countries were discussed at the meetings. “From this point of view establishment of diplomatic contacts with such countries as Venezuela and Cuba is of great importance since they are in the forerfont in the region and their actions can affect other states’ position on this issue”, the deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia Maxim Gvindzhiya considers.

“The Abkhaz delegation makes every effort to create favorable basis promoting the recognition of Abkhazia by the Latin American countries”, Tuzhba stressed.

On September 3 representatives of the Republic of Abkhazia held a meeting with the members of the Latin American Parliament from Venezuela including representatives of 22 countries, each of which delegates 12 MPs.

The primary goal of the Latin American Parliament consists in solving questions and problems of the Latin American countries. Besides, the organisation develops cooperation with the Asian and African countries in the area of parliamentary activity. “MPs from Venezuela assured Abkhazia’s representatives of full support of the policy followed by Abkhazia’s leadership aimed at the recognition of the republic on the international scene and self-denying struggle for independence”, I. Tuzhba said.

Maxim Gvindzhiya thanked the present for warm welcome and a chance to hold such a meeting with representatives of the Latin American countries’ parliamentary bodies.

He also mentioned that Abkhazia, like many Latin American countries, has struggled throughout many years for independence and possibility of bulding own state. Gvindzhiya stressed that Abkhazia is open for cooperation with all the countries ready to carry on a civilised dialogue and to respect each other’s interests.

I. Tuzhba said the program of the delegation of Abkhazia’s stay in Venezuela is carried out with assistance of Representative Office of the Prednestrovian Moldavian Republic in Caracas, the Embassy of the Russian Federation and the State Protocol Department of the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Venezuela.

On September 5 the Abkhaz delegation left for Cuba where a number of meetings with the Ministry for Foreign Affairs of Cuba representatives will be held.

The official visit of the Abkhaz delegation to Nicaragua by the invitation of the President of Nicaragua Daniel Ortega Saavedra will take place from September 9 till September 11, 2009.

Abkhazia to voice protest to Georgia and demand it stop piracy at sea

SUKHUM, September 7 (Itar-Tass) -- Abkhazia plans to demand that Georgia “stop piracy” at sea, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said.

“We are dealing with a new spiral of tensions initiated by Georgia. Georgia continues to whip up tensions, this time at sea,” he said told Itar-Tass on Monday.

He said Abkhazia would voice a protest to Georgia at the five-sided meeting on the prevention and investigation of incidents on the border of Abkhazia to be held in the Gali District on September 8. The Abkhazian delegation will also demand that Georgia stop piracy”.

“At the meeting we will raise the question of seizure by Georgian border guards of ships sailing to and from Abkhazia in neutral waters. We will demand that the Georgian side stop piracy,” Shamba said.

In his opinion, the five-sided mechanism operating under the Geneva discussions on security in the Transcaucasia was created in order to prevent such incidents and any actions that lead to tensions.

“The resolution of the problem associated with the seizure of ships in neutral waters will show how effective this mechanism is,” the minister said.

The Abkhazian delegation to the talks will be led by the president’s envoy to the Gali District, Ruslan Kishmaria.

Shamba also said that Geneva process co-chairmen Johan Verbeke of the United Nations and Pierre Morel of the European Union will arrive in Sukhum on September 9 to discuss the agenda of the next sixth round of consultations scheduled for September 17. Abkhazia will attend the consultations.

The Geneva consultations are held in accordance with the agreement reached by the presidents of Russia and France after a conflict in South Ossetia in August 2008.

On August 17, Georgian authorities detained a tanker under a Panamanian flag in the country's territorial waters.

The tanker Buket was detained "for numerous violations of the state border", the Georgian border guard service said.

The vessel was detained in Georgia's territorial waters by escort ships of the Georgia Coast Guard Service, which said that the intruder tanker was carrying illegally 2,000 tonnes of petrol and 700,075 tonnes of diesel fuel from Turkey to Sukhum.

The tanker was taken to the port of Poti. The investigation is underway, the border guard service said.

There were 17 crewmembers aboard the tanker. Thirteen of them were Turkish citizens and four were citizens of Azerbaijan, it said.

Prior to that, the United Transport Administration of Georgia said the tanker would be seized for numerous violations of the state border, and the decree of responsibility of its crewmembers will be decided by court.

Georgian television said “the tanker captain has been detained, and the other crewmembers are staying aboard the vessel".

Under Georgian laws, the captain, not the crew, is responsible for violating the state border. Usually, the captain of an intruder vessel is sentenced either to a large fine or imprisonment for several years, depending on what kind of a deal the investigation and the defendant make.

Abkhazia said it would reserve the right to take "proportionate measures" in order to protect cargoes intended for the republic and will hold Georgia responsible for possible consequences, the Abkhazian Foreign Ministry said.

The Foreign Ministry said the incident "continues Georgia's policy aimed at destabilising the situation in the region using all methods of political and economic pressure on Abkhazia".

Georgia is taking these steps "in the presence of numerous international observers", the ministry said.

"The Abkhazian side considers the absence of a proper assessment from the international community as a purposeful encouragement of Georgia's aggressive policy that may lead to an escalation of tensions," the ministry warned.

The incident occurred in neutral waters, the director of the state-owned Abkhaz Shipping Line, Zaur Ardzinba, said.

The Turkish seine boar Buket headed for Abkhazia. It was to deliver over 3,000 tonnes of petrol and 755 tonnes of diesel fuel to Sukhum.

According to Ardzinba, "This is the third seizure by Georgia of Turkish ships delivering peaceful cargos to Abkhazia."

He described Georgia's actions as "piracy and contrary to international maritime and humanitarian law".