European style autonomy in a unified Georgian state should be the basis for the resolution of the South Ossetian conflict, Dimitri Sanakoev told the 9th session of the EU-Georgian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Brussels on June 26.
Meanwhile, President Saakashvili, speaking at the BSEC leaders’ summit in Istanbul, once again endorsed Sanakoev and his Tbilisi-loyal South Ossetian provisional administration.
Both events are part of Tbilisi’s ongoing diplomatic offensive aimed at giving international credibility to Sanakoev and his administration, which currently only operates in the Tbilisi-controlled areas of South Ossetia.
Sanakoev’s speech – delivered in the Ossetian language – at the EU-Georgian Parliamentary Cooperation Committee in Brussels was essentially a rehash of his address to the Georgian Parliament on May 11, 2007.
“Direct dialogue between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples and demilitarization of the region are of crucial importance… European style autonomy, like Southern Tyrol's, can serve as a model… in a unified Georgia…. where liberal democracy is being built,” Sanakoev said.
“Europe has always seemed a far away dream for us – a dream about our children’s future. But now this dream is closer than ever before… Georgia is coming back to Europe and with Georgia, my region – South Ossetia – should also go back to Europe,” he added.
He also said that Moscow was “an important partner in the conflict resolution process.”
He stepped up criticism of, as he put it, “the Tskhinvali regime” – referring to the secessionist authorities – and said that it was hindering the peace process by inciting conflict between the Georgian and Ossetian peoples.
Sanakoev called on the international community “to be more active in order to put an end to the conflict.”
Speaking at a summit of leaders from the Organization of Black Sea Economic Cooperation (BSEC) on June 25, President Saakashvili continued rhetoric launched at the GUAM summit in Baku last week. He said that the South Ossetian conflict was nearing resolution.
He said that Sanakoev’s provisional administration holds out the hope of peace to the population in the region. Saakashvili warned that revision of borders in the Black Sea region would mean undermining stability.
Sensing that Tbilisi is gaining the diplomatic upper-hand, Tskhinvali has condemned Sanakoev’s visit to Brussels and said efforts to promote Sanakoev internationally were “cynical and futile.”
In a statement on June 25, the breakaway region’s Foreign Ministry also accused “some foreign countries and international structures” of encouraging Tbilisi “to undertake steps aimed at further escalation of the conflict.”
Moscow has also been critical of the provisional administration. In a late-May statement, Russia’s Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko said Tbilisi’s decision to support Sanakoev was “dangerous” and “leading in the wrong direction.”
The EU, however, seems to be giving tentative support to Tbilisi’s policy.
The EU’s special representative to the South Caucasus, Peter Semneby, said on June 11 in Tbilisi that although the EU sees Sanakoev as being part of South Ossetian society, it would “not be helpful” to put an emphasis on any one personality.
“The most important part that makes the Georgian proposal interesting in the eyes of Georgia’s partners is the part that involves a comprehensive dialogue with, or within Ossetian society. And if such a dialogue takes place that is what makes this proposal of interest to others and that would enable Georgia to finally gather support around this proposal,” the EU envoy said.
The EU, in a statement made at the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna on June 14, welcomed the Georgian government’s attempts to engage in an “all-inclusive consultative process” with all the forces within South Ossetia.