May 03, 2011

Abkhazia: Eeropean Union Denounces Lavrov’s Visit To Abkhazia

The European Union on the 28th of April criticized Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov for travelling to the disputed republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia without approval from Georgia.


Below is an article published by: New Europe.

Lavrov visited the two breakaway regions at the start of last week to sign bilateral agreements on transport, rescue operations and cultural centers, according to Russian media. “The EU does not consider these visits compatible with the principle of territorial integrity,” said a statement from the EU’s foreign policy chief.

The two territories were at the centre of a brief war in 2008 between Russia and Georgia. Russia now recognizes the two South Caucasus regions as independent, while the West considers them to be part of Georgia.

“The EU reiterates its support for Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, and underlines the importance of a peaceful conflict resolution,” the statement said.

During his visit, Lavrov held talks with Abkhazian leader Sergei Bagapsh and other Abkhazian leaders to discuss further development of friendly bilateral relations based on full-blown interstate collaboration. The two parties noted the positive momentum in questions of assistance to Abkhazia in the socioeconomic sphere and of cooperation in international affairs and regional security. As part of the visit, Lavrov met the commanders of the Border Guard Directorate of the Russian Federal Security Service in Abkhazia and members of the Russian-speaking diaspora.

At the end of the visit, an intergovernmental agreement on the establishment and conditions of activity of information and cultural centers was signed. There was also an exchange of notes containing the notification of completion of the internal procedures required for the intergovernmental free-visa travel agreement to take effect.

There are “no problems” in relationship between Moscow and Sokhumi, but there are “issues” which needs to be resolved, Lavrov said during his visit to Abkhazia, Abkhaz news agency Apsnipress reported. “I do not see problems, I see issues, which, naturally, emerge and need to be resolved, when a new independent state appears on the map,” Lavrov said at a news conference in Sokhumi. He said that those “issues” in bilateral relations were related to restoration of property rights of Russian citizens in Abkhazia and demarcation of the border.

“We have not yet resolved these issues even with all of our neighbors,” Lavrov said. “The fact, that we are already actively addressing these issues, indicates on intensity of our contacts, directed towards prompt establishment of the Abkhaz state as a neighbor, friend and ally. This is absolutely natural process. What has already been done in past two and a half years in this regard is impressing. We will continue moving with this pace.” He thanked Sokhumi for “showing political will” to resolve the issues related with property disputes.

Bagapsh said after meeting with Lavrov that so far only six applications submitted by the Russian citizens requesting restoration of their property rights in Abkhazia were deemed as justified by a special commission and sent for further consideration to the court. Lavrov said that Sokhumi and Moscow were closing cooperating in international affairs, “including in providing security to Abkhazia and South Ossetia in frames of Geneva discussions,” which he said, had turned into “a sustainable format.”

Foreign Minister of breakaway Abkhazia Maxim Gvinjia said on 26 April that talks were underway with Russia over signing of an agreement on dual citizenship.

Lavrov arrived in Sokhumi after visiting Georgia’s another breakaway region of South Ossetia on 25 April.

Tbilisi condemned Lavrov’s visits to Tskhinvali and Sokhumi as yet another attempt by “the occupant state to give legitimacy to its illegal decision” to recognize the two region’s independence. “It will be impossible to legitimize such illegal decision. These attempts will not be successful,” Georgian Deputy Foreign Minister Nino Kalandadze was quoted as saying by the press on 26 April. He added that those attempts showed Moscow’s “very cynical attitude towards internationally recognized principles and values.”

During his visit to Tskhinvali, Lavrov said that “military provocations” were not ruled out from Georgia, “because anything can be expected from the current regime in Tbilisi.” “So we will spare no efforts to reliably protect the South Ossetian border and to be ready if someone will again wish to commit the crime of August, 2008,” Lavrov said.

Lavrov’s visit to Georgia’s breakaway of Abkhazia is a “continuation of occupation policy,” Georgian Foreign Ministry said on 26 April. Deputy Foreign Minister, Nino Kalandadze, commenting on Lavrov’s visits to Abkhazia and Tskhinvali region, said Russia is trying to “legitimize” its “unlawful” decision, referring to the recognition of Georgia’s breakaway regions as independent states by Moscow. “Unfortunately, it is a classical step, when an occupant state is trying to make legitimate its unlawful decision. It is an attempt, which will remain unsuccessful,” Kalandadze said.

Meanwhile, Lavrov said on 26 April that Russia may join the World Trade Organization without getting any approval from Georgia. “I do not want to go into details on how it could be done without Georgia’s consent,” Lavrov said during his current visit to Abkhazia. “All I can say is these opportunities are stipulated under the WTO statute.”

Georgian-Russian WTO talks resumed on 10 March in Switzerland after being suspended for almost three years following Russia’s decision to lift economic sanctions against Georgia’s breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in April 2008. The second round of talks is expected to start by the end of April.

Russia has been in membership talks with the 153-nation WTO for 17 years and remains the only major economy still outside the organization. The European Union gave its formal backing to the country’s entry bid in December last year after Russia agreed to trim timber export duties and rail freight tariffs.

However, Georgia says it will not allow Russia to join the global free trade club unless it cedes control of customs in the breakaway Georgian regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Tbilisi earlier admitted that Russia could in theory join the WTO without Georgia’s consent but said it would be unprecedented.