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Best friend "puppets", by Andrei Babitsky

Ekho Kavkaza

THE VIEW FROM PRAGUE --- Rumours are circulating that one possible reason for assigning Temur Yakobashvili to a new post was to reduce the funding of his favourite creation — the Strategy for [the] Occupied Territories. Or they say that the Minister of State, considering that he could not achieve all he wanted under new conditions, he expressed a desire to change career. It is difficult to say how far these rumours conform to  reality, but sequestration of the Strategy seems a fully reasonable practical measure. Indeed, in the course of almost a year of triumphantly presenting the new state plan for reintegration Temur Yakobashvili has not succeeded in moving a single millimeter in this direction. Quite the contrary — the gulf separating the Georgians, the Abkhazians and the Ossetians deepens with each passing day.

The failure of the strategy was predicted by many even at the time of its publication. All the programmes for cooperation required by it were impossible to implement without the active participation of the Abkhazian and Ossetian societies, and, most importantly, of the authorities to whom these societies have given legitimacy. But the rate of reintegration of Georgia, declared to be an absolute innovation, remained faithful to the basic political conception — the document's lexicon (not in the body of the text but in the footnotes) shamefully continued to call Abkhazia and Ossetia "occupied territories". Alongside the term "occupied territories" we find, admittedly outside the actual document but at the level of the definition of terms used by Georgias politicians, the additional phrase "puppet government". Of what kind of policy of "engagement" with the Abkhazians and Ossetians can one speak, if the Strategy denies them both the right to be subjects of a fully fledged dialogue? The Strategy treated them just as decorations, on the grounds that it was Russia that was directing affairs.

If the financing of the Strategy will indeed be trimmed, well, it still played a propaganda role. It does not seem that there is any change in policy, to the extent that in these very days there is an air of jubilation in Tbilisi over the introduction of the term "occupied territories" in the resolution of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly. It is just that the office of Yakobashvili from the start had no-one with whom to conduct a dialogue, because, in the given circumstances, it was simply impossible. Role of the strategy was purely propagandistic — to show the world community how Sukhum and Tskhinval throw stones at the outstretched hand of Tbilisi. One gains the impression that the Georgian leadership, in principle, is not interested in improving relations with the self-declared republics. It now seeks only one thing — present Georgia to the world as the innocent victim of the aggression of totalitarian Russia, and to convert the sympathy of the democratic countries into political and financial support. There is a strange feeling that, setting its priorities in this way, Tbilisi has in fact long abandoned the idea of dialogue with the Abkhazians and Ossetians. Reintegration in this case can only work as a constantly and aggressively rejected initiative. They can then say that the desire to negotiate on the part of Georgia is clear to every person of good will, but Russia blocks it through the agency of its squalid puppets.

Source: Ekho Kavkaza (Лучший друг «марионеток»)

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