The ministers stressed that the priority task of the consultations in this format must be to fix a pledge of Georgia not to use force, approve a security zones regime in the Georgian territories adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and reach an agreement to impose an embargo on offensive arms supplies to Georgia.
In view of the approaching expiry of the mandate of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia the Russian side expressed support for Sukhum’s position in favor of maintaining the UN presence within the territory of the republic. In discussing the future configuration of that presence, the sides consider it necessary to take into account the new realities in the region.
Sergey Shamba also delivered a lecture to MGIMO (U) students and faculty on the problems of Transcaucasia.
The visit of the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia to Russia constituted an important step along the road of fostering equal and mutually advantageous cooperation between the two countries, meeting the interests of bolstering peace and security in the region.
Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following Talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba, Moscow, December 23, 2008
I am glad to welcome my Abkhaz counterpart, Sergey Mironovich Shamba, to Moscow on his first visit to the Russian Federation. This is a truly significant event. Since Russia recognized Abkhazia’s independence on August 26 this year and established diplomatic relations with the republic fostering comprehensive relations has been an ascending process. A major landmark was the signing of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance on September 17 by the Presidents of the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia. Today, from the exchange of the instruments of ratification just held, this Treaty has formally entered into force.
A few days ago the Ambassador of Russia to Abkhazia presented his credentials to the President of the Republic. We will start the full-fledged work of the Russian Embassy in Sukhum very soon. In our turn, we are glad to welcome the Ambassador of the Republic of Abkhazia to Moscow, who at the very beginning of next year will also present his credentials to the President of Russia.
Following the entry into force of the “grand treaty” we have to do serious and responsible work to strengthen the juridical base of cooperation in the most diverse fields. We have today discussed priority tasks in this field. Currently in the stage of expert elaboration in a significant degree of readiness are about twenty sectoral agreements, of which the most important ones at this point concern the realm of security. They are the documents that will govern cooperation in the military sphere and with respect to the protection of Abkhazia’s state border. We have agreed to maximally intensify this work so we can sign these documents at the start of next year.
Surely a lot of attention is being paid to economic and trade cooperation. Agreements on free trade and on the reciprocal encouragement and protection of investment, along with arrangements in the field of transport and communications, are under development. We expect this work to be promptly finished as well.
Of course, we discussed our countries’ interaction on international issues, and signed a memorandum which, in particular, envisages the readiness of Russia to represent Abkhazia’s interests in third countries and to facilitate cooperation by Abkhazia with the world community as a whole.
We also discussed the outcome of the third Geneva consultations held a few days ago, and compared notes on an upcoming consideration of new parameters for the UN mission in Abkhazia. We support the position of the Republic of Abkhazia’s leadership on a further UN presence within its territory. We will stand in the UN Security Council for approving a mandate for the UN presence in Abkhazia which would be acceptable to Sukhum. Of course, this presupposes the necessity of taking into account the new realities in the Caucasus.
Considerable work has been done over the last few months, but we still have a lot more to accomplish. The present talks will undoubtedly help to move in this direction.
Question: The OSCE mission is finishing its work in 2009. What do you think it has achieved? What are the reasons for the wrap-up?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: Actually, an OSCE mission does not work in Abkhazia, nor has it ever been there. The OSCE mission was in Georgia and had an office in Tskhinval prior to the aggression against South Ossetia. The OSCE mission worked in Georgia and then also in South Ossetia on the basis of its mandate that was based on the agreements reached after the settlement of the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict in the early 90s and on the agreements on the establishment of a collective peacekeeping force. These agreements are no longer in force, because with the attack by the Georgian regime on South Ossetia they were actually torn up, and in juridical terms, Tbilisi also declared that it was withdrawing from them. Therefore neither in the legal nor in the practical meaning can the old mandate be applied. It expires on December 31. Because the situation has radically changed, we have been raising in the OSCE the necessity of working out a new mandate since September. The draft of that mandate, which has been agreed with the South Ossetian side, is in the OSCE. For some reason the reaction that followed was highly incomprehensible. Certain of our partners tried to extend the old, now totally meaningless mandate, about which I have just said, by hook or by crook. That is absolutely unrealistic, and by all indications, our partners have ceased trying to obtain what would be an absolutely virtual and removed from reality extension. But, as far as I know the attitude of the South Ossetian side, it is, in principle, ready to continue interacting with the OSCE, despite all complaints regarding observers from this organization on the eve of, and during the Georgian aggression. Nevertheless, I repeat, our South Ossetian partners have more than once voiced their readiness to agree a mandate for the OSCE presence in South Ossetia, both acceptable to them and unrelated to OSCE activities in Georgia, since these are two different states. The draft agreement is on the table in the OSCE, and it is not up to us.
(Adds after Shamba) Speaking of the OSCE, I would like to touch on another really important and very acute issue, where the OSCE could really provide assistance, but for some reason continues to be unresponsive to our requests. I mean the continuing non-supply of Russian gas that flows into Georgian territory to South Ossetia under the farfetched pretext of a need for gas pipeline repairs. Moreover, as we have repeatedly drawn the attention of our colleagues to the fact that once there is a need to repair the gas pipeline on Georgian territory, then why not do the job, and when we have repeatedly confirmed that the gas pipeline on South Ossetian territory is completely in order, they tell us, “the pipeline needs to be checked; it is by all means necessary to send international experts to inspect it.” A disgusting approach this is. Our company Itera, which handles gas supplies to Georgia and through it to South Ossetia, guarantees that the South Ossetian part of this gas pipeline is absolutely functional. If there are problems on Georgian territory, then without any international experts Itera is ready to remove the defects. Fears have also been expressed that mined areas might be around the gas pipeline. We stand ready to undertake that demining as well. To all these constructive proposals, aimed at the earliest solution of the humanitarian problem of the supply of gas to South Ossetia, we hear only one thing: “Let international experts into South Ossetia, then we will talk.” This I think is an absolutely inhumane approach and, unfortunately, our raising this question in the OSCE has led nowhere so far.
Question: Is it being planned and how to enlist the civil societies of Russia and Abkhazia in strengthening relations between our countries?
Foreign Minister Lavrov: We have today discussed this theme. Undoubtedly, we have already started developing our inter-parliamentary ties in the new circumstances. And, of course, our public organizations must establish new relations between them. This will continue the tradition that always existed in relations between the Russian and Abkhaz peoples when many citizens of other nationalities moved to live in Abkhazia. Society in both Russia and Abkhazia is multinational.
Speaking of the resources available to develop civil-society contacts, I shall note that, as far as I heard, at a recent meeting of the Organization for Afro-Asian Peoples’ Solidarity, Abkhazia and South Ossetia were admitted to this respected structure as members. So that Sergey Mironovich is absolutely right, we have a wide field for cooperation here and we will by all means activate it. But I also call on journalists to do their bit to help this process along. The magazine Apsny I understand is already a manifestation of civil-society activeness in developing contacts between the two countries.
Question: This morning Agence France Presse circulated a statement by Condoleezza Rice that is directly related to the theme of the present news conference. In the interview with AFP Rice said that the military action undertaken by Saakashvili’s government came as no surprise to the Bush administration, adding that she did not mean the precise time of the start of the operation. We would like to have your comment.
Foreign Minister Lavrov: You know there’s even nothing for me to comment here. At least it’s good they admit having known it.
(Adds after Shamba) In development of the words of Sergey Mironovich I can add another quotation from the same source. When we had repeatedly drawn the attention of our US and European partners to where the Saakashvili regime was trying to lead us all to, they in Washington once told us: “Don’t worry, if he uses force, then he can forget about NATO membership.” Mr. Saakashvili did use force, but for some reason the NATO theme has now taken on an entirely different perspective, as have the statements coming from Washington at present.
MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia on Cooperation in International Affairs
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia (the Sides, hereafter), based on the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia of September 17, 2008, have reached an understanding on the following:
1. The Sides will strive towards the formation of mutually advantageous relations in different fields of international cooperation.
2. The Russian Side will exert efforts for the ongoing development of relations between the Republic of Abkhazia and third states and for its participation in activities of international organizations and conference of both a universal and a regional character.
3. The Sides in their foreign policy activities proceed from the mutual interest in the recognition by third states of the independence of the Republic of Abkhazia and in their establishment of diplomatic relations or other forms of cooperation with it.
4. The Russian Side will facilitate the entry of the Republic of Abkhazia into international organizations of which the Russian Federation is a member.
5. The Russian Side expresses the readiness of the Russian Federation to represent the interests of the Republic of Abkhazia in third states through diplomatic missions of the Russian Federation. This activity will be on the basis of applicable norms of international law and the appropriate agreements with host states.
6. The Russian Side, within the scope of its capabilities, will render support to the Abkhaz Side in the following forms:
- providing information on different aspects of international relations;
- assisting with the development of the legal and regulatory base of the Republic of Abkhazia in the field of international relations;
- assisting with the training of professional cadres for the sphere of international relations;
- sending Russian specialists to the Republic of Abkhazia and inviting Abkhaz specialists to the Russian Federation for the purpose of exchanging experience in the field of international relations;
- and holding seminars, theoretical and practical conferences, trainings and other such events on problems of international relations.
7. The Sides will also hold regular meetings and consultations on current issues in international relations. A schedule of such contacts will be approved annually.
8. In pursuance of the provisions of part 3 of Article 10 of the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia of September 17, 2008, the Sides will hold consultations on practical matters relating to the protection by diplomatic missions and consular posts of the Russian Federation of the interests of citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia on the territory of third states. Separate agreements will be concluded on this issue as needed.
9. The Russian Side stands ready to consider requests from the Abkhaz Side for providing it with concrete types of assistance in the international arena and inform the Abkhaz Side of the results of efforts undertaken.
10. The Abkhaz Side will render the Russian Side all necessary assistance for implementing the provisions of this Memorandum.
This Memorandum was signed on December 23, 2008 in duplicate, each copy in the Russian and Abkhaz languages.
For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of For the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of
the Russian Federation S. V. LAVROV the Republic of Abkhazia S.M. SHAMBA
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Russia - Press Release
Transcript of Remarks and Response to Media Questions by Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov Following Talks with Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia Sergey Shamba, Moscow, December 23, 2008 - MFA Russia
Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Abkhazia on Cooperation in International Affairs