Interview with Foreign Minister Viacheslav Chirikba on the eve of the Geneva Talks on Russian-Abkhaz relations and the reactions of Georgia and the West to the Treaty
Viacheslav Andreevich, what in your view is the fundamental importance for Abkhazia of the treaty signed last week by the Presidents of Abkhazia and Russia “on union relations and strategic partnership"?
The Treaty confirms the basic positions in bilateral relations between our states, places particular emphasis on security and the military component in connection with the changed geopolitical situation, and also highlights areas of cooperation in the near term in the socio-economic, educational, foreign policy and other areas. In particular, the treaty entails the modernization of the armed forces of the Republic of Abkhazia, the implementation of joint measures to strengthen Abkhazia’s state border with Georgia, including the maritime borders, assistance in the fight against organized crime, the harmonization of customs legislation, raising the salaries of civil servants and the level of pensions of Russian citizens living in Abkhazia, simplified procedures for residents of Abkhazia to obtain Russian citizenship, and much more. After it is signed, work is envisaged on preparing sectoral, inter-agency agreements, which is also intended to significantly raise the level of these spheres in Abkhazia with the help of the Russian Federation.
How would you comment on the reactions to the signing of the treaty of Georgian officials and its Western allies?
As I said earlier, the reaction in Georgia was predictably hysterical. In Tbilisi, they went so far as to affirm that Russia is annexing Abkhazia. At the same time, the Georgian authorities do not want to understand the simple fact that the need for closer rapprochement between Abkhazia and Russia in the military sphere and security is largely dictated precisely by Georgia's aggressive policy towards Abkhazia, and not least of all by its active attempts to place on their territory NATO military structures, which constitutes a direct and substantial threat to both Abkhazia and Russia. This is in fact typical Georgian behaviour -- to stage a provocation, and then attempt to absolve themselves of any responsibility for its consequences, offloading the blame for everything onto others.
The reaction of Georgia’s "friends" was also totally predictable. We heard all those cries of outrage from Europe and America already after Russia's recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. So all in all there is nothing new here. Then too there was talk about the occupation and annexation of “Georgia’s territory."
And again, in connection with the political uproar over this treaty, the question of responsibility arises. After all, it is the manic aspiration of the US and of hawks in several European capitals to expand the boundaries of the North Atlantic alliance to the east, and by dragging Ukraine and Georgia into NATO to completely surround with their military structures the eastern and southern flanks of Russia, that is the main factor destabilizing the current international situation. What would be the reaction of the United States if a military coalition of whatever countries tried to encircle its territory with a network of military bases? The answer is obvious – there would be war. So all the dramatic events of the last few years in Europe derive directly from NATO’s aspiration to advance as close as possible to Russia's borders. And Georgia is an active participant in this provocation, which is extremely dangerous for European security.
What issues does the Abkhazian delegation intend to raise at the upcoming 30th round of Geneva talks?
Aside from the traditional topics – the discussion of drafts of a legally binding agreement on the non-use of force between Georgia, on the one hand, and Abkhazia and South Ossetia, on the other hand, the security situation in the regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia that border on Georgia, the process of searching for missing persons and identifying the remains of servicemen -- we also discuss the question of the return of cultural valuables to Abkhazia and archival documents lost during the war with Georgia. In addition, we are increasingly raising the issue of the discriminatory visa policy of EU countries with respect to the citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the recognition in Europe of our documents such as birth, marriage and death certificates and education diplomas, as well as a number of other important issues. By the way, it is because of our persistent stance on visa policy during the discussions in Geneva that the US representative announced that his government is lifting visa barriers for citizens of Abkhazia and South Ossetia traveling on Russian passports issued by the Russian Embassy in Sukhum and Tskhvinval. This is a great success for Abkhaz diplomacy.
How might the treaty signed with Russia affect the course of the Geneva talks? Are you concerned that Georgian representatives might adduce the signing of the treaty to reject any constructive proposals by Abkhazia’s representatives?
Although some voices were raised in Georgia of those who wanted to use the signing of a new Russian-Abkhaz Treaty as an excuse for breaking off the Geneva process, as well as consultations in the Karasin-Abashidze format, I hope common sense will prevail and the negotiations will continue. No one, including the Georgian side, has any interest in breaking them off at this time.
Will this Treaty affect the process of the international recognition of Abkhazia?
As you know, Article 4 of the Treaty is completely devoted to cooperation between Russia and Abkhazia in the field of foreign policy. Conduct of a coordinated foreign policy is envisaged, and the 2nd paragraph of that Article explicitly states that the Russian Federation "will fully contribute to the strengthening of international relations of the Republic of Abkhazia, including expanding the circle of states that officially recognized it, and to creating conditions for the Republic of Abkhazia to accede to international organizations and associations ... ". You can’t put it more clearly. I think our whole society is vitally interested in the implementation of these provisions of the new Treaty.
When is the signing of the sectoral agreements between the relevant agencies of Abkhazia and Russia planned?
First published in Russian in ApsnyPress.