Abkhaz experts: Abkhazia should not alienate the West

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Abkhazia and the West

The authorities of Abkhazia have declared their intention to limit cooperation with international organizations or even completely refuse contact with them. What brought this decision on? Does it meet the interests of the republic, and how will this affect the process of de-isolation? And what is Abkhazia’s history with NGOs?

These topics were discussed on the air of the Abkhaz edition of Chegemskaya Pravda by editor and presenter Inal Khashig, co-director of the Center for Humanitarian Programs Liana Kvarchelia, and historian Astamur Tania.

Full video of the “Abkhazia and the West” discussion

Liana Kvarchelia:

“If we want to see Abkhazia as an internationally recognized state, then of course we need to build relations with the outside world. After all, we are talking about broad recognition, which opens up very great opportunities, not only economic. This would be a guarantee that Georgia would have to give up its claims on our territory.

Of course today the international situation has noticeably worsened. Above all, relations between our strategic partner Russia and the West. Maintaining communication channels with international organizations and maintaining sovereignty is quite difficult, but we must continue to do this.

We lowered the degree of initiative we had. Previously, representatives of civil society reported the position of Abkhazia in many international platforms. Regarding the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict one should not start only from the events of August 2008.

Mikheil Saakashvili shifted his focus after this war and since then Georgia has been trying to present the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict as one between Russia and Georgia, with Georgia as a victim. The events of 1992 and the role of Georgia as the instigator of the aggression are, as it were, obscured.

We tried at our level to convey this perspective. At the official level our power is limited in such opportunities, but at the level of civil society and the expert community, an opportunity still exists.

This does not mean that we tried to present a biased picture. We also talk about existing problems. And this is a sign of confidence in the chosen path, since we are also discussing ways to solve these problems.

I don’t understand why Abkhazia seems to be looking for an excuse to get rid of the international presence. I understand that this is a response to the decision of the European Union not to recognize Russian passports issued in Abkhazia. I agree that it is necessary to react to such an unfair decision, but not in this way.

Our task is to make sure that we are considered, that we are a party to the negotiations, and not participate in them in a personal capacity, as is now happening in Geneva. It’s not clear how expelling international organizations will achieve this.

As for passports, it would be more appropriate to persistently raise the issue of recognizing Abkhazian passports as a travel document.

They solve their geopolitical tasks by sacrificing our right to freedom of movement. And we should not condemn this decision of the European Union, but give feedback. It definitely doesn’t mean ending a relationship. Tomorrow the international situation may change.

Astamur Tania:

It is always easy to talk to people with whom you have complete understanding. But, unfortunately, the world is much more complex.

We had a naive period when we believed we would tell the whole truth about Abkhazia — and there would be no one who would remain indifferent after what they heard.

Indeed, there were people, and from different countries, who responded during the war in the early 1990s to our problems. They played a big role in further informing an even larger circle of people about the situation in Abkhazia.

However, our propaganda capabilities are not comparable to the Georgia’s. And in order not to lose the platform occupied by us, both in the information and political spaces, it was necessary to support and expand it.

It got ridiculous. Vladislav Ardzinba [the first president of Abkhazia] corresponded with the UN Secretary General. Answers came from there and they were addressed, it was written there, to Professor Ardzinba. They did not recognize us, so they did not write the word “president”.

Then Vladislav Grigorievich, in another letter on a number of problems, including security issues in the Gali district where the UN mission was then located, wrote at the end of the letter: “I want to note that I am leading Abkhazia not as a doctor of science and professor, but as President, and in the future we ask you to find an appropriate form of appeal to the leadership of Abkhazia.”

They, of course, did not begin to write “president” after that. But they chose a more appropriate form of address for the head of the country: “Your Excellency.”

And then everyone began to address him in this form, because the UN Secretary General himself used this address.

Progress is usually achieved in small steps.

I remember there were ambassadors who were part of the group of friends of Georgia from the UN Secretary General. It was always difficult to talk to them. They started with a complete lack of understanding. They really did not like to listen when the president began to tell our story.

And it seemed to Ardzinba that they could not fully understand the existing problem if they did not state the origins of this conflict. And he actually lectured them.

They bluntly said that they were tired of history. But in the end more trusting relationships were built, which made it possible to solve specific problems — both security-related and humanitarian issues.

Owing to these contacts Sukhumi maternity hospital was repaired with American money. Then, many years later, the maternity hospital was repaired again with Russian money.

The ostrich policy does not give the desired effect. You will simply be forgotten.

It is necessary to break through these walls at different sites, to expand the zone of our information presence. We need to speak in a language understandable to the international community.

It is not necessary to speak the language of ultimatums, but the language of arguments.

It must be understood that Abkhazia is not a superpower, it is a small republic. Also, the South Caucasus and Abkhazia are peripheral. There are more significant regions, politically and economically, where major powers collide and come to an agreement. For Russia, Turkey and Iran this is an important region, for others it is secondary.

Now the world is going through another stage of restructuring relations between major players. And we must understand this world. We must be present at all platforms available to Abkhazia, talk about our interests, try to integrate into various international projects.

If you participate in any international project in which major players are interested, be it with Russia, Turkey, Iran, or just the countries of the South Caucasus, your interests will be taken into account, at least they will talk to you.

Without contacting anyone, limiting ourselves to statements on Abkhaz television or on Facebook, our problems cannot be solved. This is a lot of painstaking and consistent work, sometimes it takes many years. This work must be continuous; there can be no end to it.”

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