Georgia and Russia signed on March 31 two agreements – one on the pullout of the Russian bases from Batumi and Akhalkalaki and the other giving access to Russian military cargo via Georgia. While the provisions of the first treaty have already become public, the treaty over military transit remains unavailable.
The agreement on the pullout of the Russian bases was described by President Saakashvili on April 3 as “historic” and “a victory of Georgia’s constructive diplomacy.” Although Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili also hailed the agreement on March 31, he noted that Georgia compromised on certain issues, including the timeframe of the withdrawal.
The agreement over the withdrawal of the Russian bases is mainly based on a joint declaration signed between Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and ex-Georgian Foreign Minister Salome Zourabichvili in May, 2005 and envisages the withdrawal of Russian bases in the course of 2008.
“We have compromised while giving our consent to Russia to withdraw its military bases within three years, because actually such a long term is not necessary, but we have accepted the arguments submitted by the Russian side,” Okruashvili said at a news conference on March 31.
Okruashvili also said that although Russia has already formally transferred the communications relay facility in Kojori and the firing ground in Gonio, Tbilisi agreed to use these facilities jointly with Russia until a complete withdrawal of the Russian bases from Georgia. The joint declaration signed by the Foreign Ministers last May did not envisage the joint use of these facilities.
But while speaking about “Georgia’s compromises” Okruashvili said nothing about a provision which refers to the creation of a joint Georgia-Russian Anti-Terrorist Center.
According to the agreement, Georgia and Russia “at the earliest possible time, shall complete the elaboration of an Agreement on the Foundation and Functioning of a Georgian-Russian Antiterrorist Center and shall prepare it for signing.”
Part of the personnel, material-technical resources and infrastructure of the Russian military base in Batumi should be used for the creation of this Center, according to the agreement.
Opponents have already described this provision as a major compromise by the Georgian side. “It means the presence of a well-equipped and well-trained unit of the Russian special services [on the Georgian territory], which will be able to control the political situation in the country,” MP Pikria Chikhradze, from the opposition New Rights party, said during televised comments on April 4.
According to the agreement, the withdrawal of the military base from Batumi, as well as the Tbilisi-based Headquarters of the Group of Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus, should be completed in a course of 2008, while the Akhalkalaki military base should be withdrawn no later than December, 31, 2007.
To assist with the withdrawal process, Georgia will allow Russia to use its airspace, as well as will carry out a shipment of armaments, military equipment and other material resources by railway and road.
A joint Georgian-Russian Joint Commission will be created in Tbilisi to control and monitor the implementation of the provisions set forth in the agreement.
“The present Agreement shall be provisionally used from the date of its signing and shall enter into force upon the exchange of notifications on the fulfillment of necessary interstate procedures by the Parties,” the agreement reads.
Mikhail Svirin, a spokesman of the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, said that this agreement, as is the case will all interstate agreements, needs ratification, but an agreement has already been reached over the implementation of the provisions of this agreement.
“As a result of constructive dialogue between the sides, an agreement has been reached to implement the provisions set by this agreement [over the pullout of the bases]. Now only intrerstate procedures are left to be carried out by the sides,” Mikhail Svirin told Civil Georgia.
The agreement over the bases’ pullout was posted on the Georgian Defense Ministry’s web-site in both Georgian and English shortly after it was signed on March 31, while the other treaty which was signed between the two countries on the same day has not yet been made public. The treaty was not available at the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi either.
Irakli Okruashvili said on March 31 that “the Georgian side definitely compromised” by giving its consent on an agreement over the transit of Russian military personnel and cargo that will enable Russia to gain access to its military base in Gyumri, Armenia via Georgia.
“The transit of Russian military bases to Armenia via Azerbaijan or Turkey is impossible because of well known reasons and, naturally, the only way lies through Georgia... However, this does not mean that we can appear in the situation, when the transit of any cargo via Georgia will pose a threat to the region,” Okruashvili said.
Russian media sources reported some details of this agreement in early March, when the document was discussed by the Russian government.
According to these reports, the five–year agreement obliges Russia to not transfer any armament transited through the Georgian territory to a third country. The amount of military cargo that will be transited via Georgia will be agreed between Russia and Georgia one year in advance.
Russia also undertakes the commitment not to transit biological, nuclear or chemical substances, as well as weapon of mass destruction or their components.
According to Russian sources, Georgia can refuse the transit of items if the movement of the military cargo poses a threat to its national security or if the final destination of the transited military cargo is a location within a conflict zone or a warring state.