President of Abkhazia, Sukhum - 22 May 2008
Now the situation in Abkhazia is calm and under control. Several meetings with the Western policy-makers have been recently held in the city of Sukhumi. The US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Matthew Bryza and the U.S. Ambassador to Georgia John Tefft have arrived in Abkhazia. Besides, we maintain contacts and negotiate with some Georgian politicians.
We are discussing two things with the Georgian party. Firstly, it is the withdrawal of the Georgian troops from the Kodor gorge. Secondly – the signing of the peace and non-recommencement of hostilities treaty. The Georgian party says that if it withdraws the troops from the Kodor gorge, Russia will have to withdraw its peacemakers from Abkhazia. But we can’t accept that.
We are ready to withdraw our troops that surround the Kodor gorge in order to relieve the tension there. If Georgia is ready to consider those offers, we will negotiate about two aspects and, probably, we will be willing to accept them in the same package. It is necessary to remedy the situation since the base Moscow agreements concluded in 1994 and the UN resolutions were violated. We will do our utmost to keep the Kodor gorge within Abkhazia.
But in the Georgian political establishment there are the “hawks” who prefer to act coercively, and the politicians realizing that there will be no progress in the conflict settlement without the negotiations and contacts. We told our Georgian colleagues and the U.S. representatives that Russia should not be implicated in the negotiations process and the Georgia-Abkhazian relations. There is a need to work with the two conflict parties – Georgia and Abkhazia. But it looks like Georgia has nothing to talk with Abkhazia about. Tbilisi decided to shift everything onto Russia and to show that to the world community.
As regards the information that the Gali district inhabitants are forbidden from turning out to vote in the parliamentary elections in Georgia, those people live in Abkhazia. They elected the Abkhazian President and Parliament. When they live in Georgia, they will participate in the Georgian elections.
Abkhazia takes the current parliamentary elections in Georgia in the same way as those in Moldova, France, etc. The elections should be democratic and the Georgian people should make their choice. But this will be the choice of the Georgians. The Abkhazian people have already made their choice.
If we are talking about Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s proposals to grant Abkhazia broad autonomy, there was a very broad autonomy in 1990s. As a result, the Abkhazian population decreased up to 17% in its territory and the Abkhazians were being assimilated.
On August 14, 1992 we examined the proposal of making Georgia with Abkhazia a federal state.
After the war between Georgia and Abkhazia there was proposed a confederation form with granting wide powers to Abkhazia. Then there was proposed a form of a union state. Georgia turned down both those proposals.
In 1999 the independence referendum was held in Abkhazia. Now we are creating our independent state. The Georgian authorities should understand that Abkhazians are not interested in holding positions in the Georgian government. We are interested in our own independence, we want to preserve our state and our identity.
What will Abkhazia do, if Georgia joins NATO? Abkhazia will do nothing. Let Georgia join NATO even tomorrow. We do not care about that. This will estrange Abkhazia from Georgia for good and all.
The material is based on Sergei BAGAPSH’s speech at Interfax Information Agency.
May 22, 2008