Dec 11, 2006

Abkhazia: Russian Duma Calls for Recognition

The State Duma unanimously passed a statement, on appeal from the Assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia to the Russian President, to establish associated relations, a move thought to prepare the ground for recognition.

Below is an article published by The Messenger:

A "big mistake" that will bring Russia "disastrous results", designed purposefully to "provoke Georgia"-this is how Georgian officials reacted to the Russian State Duma's recent call to have the Kremlin grant recognition to Georgia's breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

With 423 votes to zero for Abkhazia and 418 to zero for South Ossetia the State Duma, the lower house of the Russian parliament, passed two statements on 6 December regarding the two breakaway regions "on the appeal of the People's Assembly of the Republic of Abkhazia to the Russian President and Federal Assembly on the recognition of the Republic of Abkhazia to establish associated relations between Abkhazia and Russia" and "on the results of the referendum in South Ossetia on the issue of granting it independence and the results of the election of president of South Ossetia on November 12, 2006."

Georgian authorities point out that the Duma's statements are not legally binding for the Russian authorities, but the unanimity in the Duma over these issues clearly demonstrates the stance of the Russian political establishment regarding Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

"It is obvious that the Duma's decision was sponsored and instructed by the Kremlin and the Russian government is preparing the ground for the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," chair of parliamentary Defence and Security Committee, MP Givi Targamadze said, adding "I can say directly that the recognition of these regions by the Russian executive authorities will be equal to a declaration of war against Georgia," which would bring Russia "disastrous results".

Prior to the discussion at the State Duma, speaker of the Georgian parliament Nino Burjanadze called on Duma members' to refrain from endorsing such an "uncivilized and undemocratic" decision, that would inevitably put executive government in an uneasy situation and compel it to make explanations for an international community.

Russian news agency Itar-tass writes that Russian MPs believe that "our country should make its policy while taking into account the free expression of will of the people of South Ossetia, expressed in the recent referendum in accordance with international legal norms and precedents in Russian legislation."

"The referendum on independence in South Ossetia, its unequivocal results are also a direct consequence of the policy by Georgian authorities," head of the Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Russian Diaspora Relations, Andrei Kokoshin stated Itar-tass reports.

The statement on Abkhazia accuses the Georgian authorities of purposefully stirring tensions and says that Tbilisi's aggressive policy towards Abkhazia threatens the "lives of many thousands of citizens of the Russian Federation living on the territory of Abkhazia."

Responding to the Duma's actions, a group of Georgian lawmakers passed a statement calling on the international community to express its concern regarding the Russian Duma's decision and stand by Georgia in its struggle for common democratic and fair values.

"The Russian Duma's statements could not be assessed in a way other than the extremely unfriendly political gesture towards Georgia, that indents to provoke Georgian side, escalate the tensions and hamper the conflict resolution process with joint efforts of Georgian side and the international community," the Georgian parliament's appeal to the international community reads.

Abkhaz rally for independence

Parallel to the discussions at the State Duma on December 6 up to 40 000 people rallied in Freedom Square in Abkhazia's capital Sokhumi for what was called 'a national gathering' to show the Abkhaz society's unity in its aspirations for independence.

"We are stating an objective reality: Abkhazia and Georgia cannot exist within the borders of a single country," de facto Abkhaz president Sergei Bagapsh declared at the meeting, RIA. Novosti reported.

Bagapsh expressed his concerns over Georgia's recent "intense militarization" saying that "some countries" which try to act as mediators in the conflict resolution aid to this militarization process.

"We cannot count on a fair and objective resolution of the conflict under such conditions," he said, noting "It is quite obvious that such military support for Georgia directly contributes to its aggressive plans."

"Our people know from bitter experience that Georgia is a country that poses a threat to Abkhazia and its sovereignty," Bagapsh said.

Bagapsh also praised assistance in resolving the conflict provided by Russia, whose peacekeepers patrol the ceasefire line, Tbilisi says the peacekeepers prop up the secessionist authorities.

People at the 'national gathering' adopted a statement, in which they appealed for international recognition of Abkhazia's independence.

"We call on Russia, the UN and the international community as a whole with an appeal to recognize the sovereignty of our country," the statement said. "This gathering of Abkhaz people supports the rightful demands of the people of Transnistria [a self-proclaimed republic in Moldova] and South Ossetia on the recognition of their sovereignty."