In a strongly-worded resolution passed on October 11 the Georgian Parliament instructed the government to take measures for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the South Ossetian and Abkhazian conflict zones if their performance does not improve within four and eight months, respectively.
The resolution was approved with a 143-0 vote, but opposition parliamentarians from the Conservative and Republican parties abstained from voting. The Conservatives advocated a more radical stance that demanded that the Russian peacekeepers withdraw before January 1, 2006, while the Republicans were offering the adoption of two separate resolutions – one in respect to Abkhazia and the other on the South Ossetian conflict zone.
According to the adopted resolution the Georgian government should report to the Parliament by February 10, 2006 about the peace process in the South Ossetian conflict zone. If the Parliament decides that no progress has been made, the lawmakers will demand that the peacekeepers begin withdrawing, starting from February 15, 2006.
The same provision applies to the Abkhaz conflict zone, but with a later date. The government should report to the Parliament about the situation in the Abkhaz peace process by July 1, 2006. If there is no progress by that time, the Parliament will demand that the peacekeepers begin pulling out, starting from July 15, 2006.
The resolution instructs the Georgian government to develop a peace plan over Abkhazia by May 1, 2006. Tbilisi has already proposed a peace plan for South Ossetia but has not yet proposed a similar document in respect to Abkhazia so far.
The resolution describes the authorities in breakaway Abkhazia and South Ossetian as “criminal regimes” and “clannish dictatorships” and criticizes Russia for “annexation a part of Georgia’s territory” through supporting these secessionist regions.
The resolution was developed by a group of leading lawmakers from the ruling National Movement party, involving Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze, MP Giga Bokeria, MP Nika Rurua and MP Davit Bakradze. This group was working over the document in close cooperation with representatives of the executive authorities.
Although parliamentarians from both the ruling and opposition parties agree that the current peacekeeping operation in Abkhazia and South Ossetian has proved ineffective, disagreements persist over the policy which the government should exert in regards to the Russian peacekeepers.
Leader of the opposition Conservative party MP Koba Davitashvili proposed an alternative draft resolution, which envisaged the pullout of the Russian peacekeepers from the conflict zones before January 1, 2006, without setting any performance deadlines for them. But the proposal was turned down by the lawmakers from the ruling party.
The opposition New Rights party also supported an immediate withdrawl of the peacekeepers. “The Russian presence in the conflict zone in the role of peacekeepers should not be prolonged any longer. There will be a higher risk of provocations if we postpone this issue [of the peacekeepers’ withdrawal],” MP Pikria Chikhradze of the New Rights, said at the parliamentary session.
But parliamentarians from the ruling party denounced the opposition’s radical stance as populism, which lacks pragmatism. “The process of withdrawal is not easy and it needs very good preparation,” MP Davit Bakradze, one of the co-authors of the adopted resolution, said.
Parliamentarians from the Republican Party, who also abstained from voting, criticized the resolution, mainly because of its form. They deemed the consideration of the Abkhaz and South Ossetian conflicts in a common context through a single resolution inadmissible.
“These conflicts are different in respect of the different peace keeping formats, in respect of their future status,” MP Ivliane Khaindrava, of the Republic Party, said.
The Republicans also criticized the authors of the resolution for paying less attention to the Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides. “The draft resolution considers these conflict resolution issues only in the context of Russo-Georgian relations, which rules out any role [being played by the] Abkhaz and South Ossetian sides, which I don't think is right,” MP Khaindrava said.
He also noted that describing the authorities in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “criminal regimes” also creates problems, as it means that the Georgian officials will have to negotiate with “criminals.”
After the voting, Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze expressed her regret that some opposition lawmakers abstained from voting.
"Frankly speaking, I believed that we would be unanimous in accepting this decision… however, I think that [non-participation in the vote by the opposition] was better than voting against the resolution," Burjanadze said.
In its statement issued on October 3 the Russian Foreign Ministry denounced the Georgian Parliament’s plans to adopt this resolution as “a provocation” and a step directed towards “thwarting the negotiating format.”