Letters: The way ahead for Abkhazians, Ossetians and Georgians - The Guardian

It is sad to see such figures as Vaclav Havel and Vytautas Landsbergis (Letters, 22 September), whose courage in their states' struggles for independence from the Soviet Union is undeniable, so out of touch as to argue that the European democracies should continue the failed policies of the last two decades with regard to Georgia.

President Saakashvili's 7 August 2008 assault on South Ossetia was simply the latest expression of the ugly nationalism that blighted Georgia's own path to independence. An early result was the 1990-92 war imposed on South Ossetia by Georgia's first post-communist president, the late Zviad Gamsakhurdia, followed by the war in Abkhazia (1992-93), initiated by Eduard Shevardnadze. Both wars ended in de facto secession from a Georgia which, without a thought for the republic's minorities, had been unwisely recognised by the international community within its Soviet frontiers in March 1992. At that time, Georgia was headed by a military junta and Shevardnadze had no democratic mandate. Since then, Tbilisi has tried several times to reignite hostilities.

The international community's support for Georgia's claims to territorial integrity has achieved the opposite of the intended goal, pushing Abkhazia and South Ossetia closer to Russia. Russia officially recognised both on 26 August 2008, after its military response to Saakashvili's provocation; since then Nicaragua and Venezuela have followed suit. If Europe wishes to see stability in Transcaucasia, it should pressure Tbilisi to abandon imperial fantasies and to recognise the new states. That will enable normalisation of relations in the region and a subsequent European input of influence and investment to counterbalance that flowing (and increasing) from Russia.

Professor George Hewitt
Honorary consul for Abkhazia

As a member of the pro-European opposition in Georgia, I support the sentiments expressed by Vaclav Havel and others. Whatever our views of President Saakashvili, we want to see our country reunited and an end to the illegal Russian occupation. There is no doubt the 2008 conflict was planned in Moscow and I hope the EU's report will condemn the almost daily Russian provocations in our territory, as well as showing how our government fell into the most obvious trap.
We need to look forward, though. Both sides must respect the terms of the ceasefire. Through trade and incentives, we need to offer the Abkhazians and Ossetians an alternative to Russia. The international community must do far more to prevent the ethnic cleansing of Georgians. But our security in the face of the Russian threat must not come at the expense of a vibrant, healthy democracy or political reconciliation. I have personal experience of negotiating with the Abkhaz and remain optimistic that we can achieve our dream of peaceful coexistence, not just between Abkahzians, Ossetians and Georgians, but also between political opponents in Tbilisi. We will need European support for both.

Irakli Alasania
Leader, Our Georgia Free Democrats

Source: The Guardian




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