Speaking at the Heritage Foundation in Washington on September 18, the Georgian Foreign Minister warned that the current status quo regarding secessionist conflicts in Georgia will lead to confrontation.
As an alternative, the minister suggested direct dialogue between Georgia and the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides with Russia, the EU and the U.S. acting as facilitators.
“We are not talking about expanding the JCC [the quadripartite negotiating body over South Ossetia]; we are talking about a different format. There should be no Russians, no North Ossetians. In our model, Russia, the U.S. and the EU will be facilitators, not part of the negotiating format,” Bezhuashvili said.
He said instead of acting like a peacekeeper, Russia is currently acting like a ‘piece–keeper.’
“That is what is happening now: keeping a piece of territory here, keeping a piece of territory there, and using them for their own political purposes. That is not an operation which we will tolerate. We need an operation that is multinational, transparent, and helps to resolve the problem,” Bezhuashvili said.
He said Russia “is a part of the problem” and Tbilisi wants Russia “to be part of the solution.”
Bezhuashvili said that three components are needed to set up an effective peacekeeping operation: direct dialogue between the conflicting sides, impartial facilitators and the presence of a multinational police force on the ground.
“The myth is that the conflict is wrongly perceived of as frozen. In reality, a crawling annexation of Georgian territory is underway; so it is not frozen and is starting to explode,” Bezhuashvili said.
He also reiterated that Georgia is sparing no effort to avoid a confrontation.
“The successful country does not need a trouble… Those who are expecting Georgia to lose its patience will be totally frustrated… We are cool as never before, because we know what to do and how to do it,” he added.
“The Russians made it clear that they will link the Kosovo model to other secessionist conflicts and this is Georgia’s concern,” he added.
“So there is zero motivation from the Abkhaz and South Ossetians to sit down and discuss a model of co-existence. These mixed messages kill this motivation,” Bezhuashvili said.
He suggested that for some people in Europe, the status quo might be the best way to avoid trouble in its neighborhood.
“No news from Georgia is a good news - that is a philosophy we are going to break. There will be news from Georgia - positive. We are going to wake up everyone… We need to do something,” Bezhuashvili said.
President Saakashvili’s speech at the UN General Assembly Session on September 22 will most likely be along the same lines as that given by Foreign Minister Bezhuashvili at the Heritage Foundation.
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