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An interview with Foreign Minister of Abkhazia Sergei Shamba

Sergei Shamba

"ABKHAZIA WILL DO WITHOUT AMERICAN RECOGNITION"

Vremya Novostei - Author: Mikhail Vignansky

ABKHAZIAN FOREIGN MINISTER SERGEI SHAMBA: THERE WILL BE NO DIALOGUES OVER TERRITORIAL INTEGRITY OF GEORGIA

Sergei Shamba: The United States had to do something to help Georgian society to learn to live with the loss of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. I do not expect anything to follow Barack Obama's statements. Neither do I believe that the Americans are about to abandon everything, their own affairs and problems included, in order to concentrate on restoration of Georgian territorial integrity. Sure, the Americans support territorial integrity of Georgia but we never expected them to recognize Abkhazia right away or even in the near future.

By the way, the Americans forget that they themselves proclaimed peoples' right to self-determination - and invoked it. Well, Abkhazia will do without American recognition.

Question: Do you think Obama's statement may have any effect on Russia's stand on the matter?

Sergei Shamba: Will Russia renege and void recognition of our sovereignty? No way. Even if it did (which is impossible, I repeat), we would never forsake sovereignty.

Question: US Vice President Joseph Biden is coming to Georgia in late July. What effect will his visit have on the region and situation here?

Sergei Shamba: Georgian Foreign Minister Grigori Vashadze visited the United States not long ago. While there, Vashadze went out of his way to convince the Americans to have their President Obama visit Tbilisi right after Moscow. He failed. It is Biden who is coming instead.   

Question: How do you know what the Georgian foreign minister discussed in Washington?   

Sergei Shamba: Let's say that I know and leave it at that. All Obama did was say that he recognized for territorial integrity of Georgia. Great. We recognize its territorial integrity too, but not within the borders of the former Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic [Abkhazian Autonomous Republic was a part of - Vremya Novostei].

Question: Incident prevention talks, an element of the consultations in Geneva, will take place in the Abkhazian town of Gal(i) on July 14. What shall we expect from the talks in terms of results?

Sergei Shamba: Abkhazia agreed to a single control meeting only. Georgia, Abkhazia, Russia, European Union, and UN will participate. In the meantime, the UN Observer Mission here completed its work. We have lots of questions concerning how this mechanism will function without the UN. We have some ideas as well, and we want them discussed but that it is only possible when we are listened to and not ignored. As for curtailment of the UN Observer Mission here because of the Russian veto at the UN Security Council, the UN should have amended the mandate and that would have been it. It would have proved itself a truly neutral organization and not clearly biased as the UN had been all these years.

Question: Irakly Alasania, formerly the Georgian foreign minister who ended up in the opposition, said the other day that he had visited Sukhum(i) in 2008, several months before the war, and that his visit nearly resulted in a pact on non-renewal of hostilities and return of refugees to Abkhazia. Alasania said that President Mikhail Saakashvili had changed his mind and refused to sign the document at the last moment. The opposition leader called it Saakashvili's mistake and said that an analogous document signed with South Ossetia might have averted the shooting war.   

Sergei Shamba: Yes, I know. The then Georgian Minister for Conflict Settlement Georgy Khaindrava and I discussed it first in 2005. Alasania and I developed it afterwards. Signing of this document would have changed everything. It would have enabled us to begin from scratch. It would have even mended the relations between Tbilisi and Moscow because President Dmitry Medvedev was supposed to sign the document too as a guarantor.

Matter of fact, we are used to this erratic behavior of the Georgian leadership. A delegation of the Georgian State Council visited us here once before the 1992-1993 war. A federation was agreed upon then. After that, however, Georgia laid hands on its share of Soviet merchandise and threw all preliminary agreements out the nearest window. It decided to conquer Abkhazia instead. Well, no need to elaborate on results of this escapade.

In 1997, we discussed establishment of a common state with the then Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze. Once again, Tbilisi changed its mind at the last possible moment. 

Last year, the Georgians must have decided their regular army ready and went for the so called military solution. It cost them.  

Question: Georgian United Opposition leader Levan Gachechiladze pronounced readiness and willingness to visit Moscow, Sukhum(i), and Tskhinval(i). Will you receive him?

Sergei Shamba: What for? He is canvassing for votes, that's all. What is there for us to discuss with him? There will be no dialogues over territorial integrity of Georgia. Neighborly relations are all that is possible now.

Question: Do you plan to run for president of Abkhazia this December?

Sergei Shamba: No, I do not.

Translated by A. Ignatkin

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