Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said on April 2 that the government would consider the Russian State Duma’s resolution on Abkhazia and South Ossetia “thoroughly,” but added that Moscow remained committed to the principle of “sovereignty and territorial integrity of states.”
Russia’s lower house of Parliament, the State Duma, on March 21 passed a resolution calling on the Kremlin to consider “the expediency of recognizing the independence” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The non-binding resolution also calls on the Russian president “to intensify efforts aimed at the protection of the security of citizens of the Russian Federation, residing on the territories of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.” It also calls for consideration of “the possibility of the reinforcement of the [Russian] peacekeeping troops in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian conflict zones.”
“We expect that in the nearest future we will prepare, in cooperation with respective state structures, concrete considerations in response to the proposals outlined in the [State Duma’s resolution],” Lavrov said in an address to the State Duma. “Of course, a source of special interest is a provision of the [Duma] resolution, which calls on the Russian president and government to consider the expediency of recognizing the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I assure you that it will be considered thoroughly, taking into consideration all factors. The unilateral recognition of Kosovo, which has set a precedent, is of course among those factors; the unacceptability of double standards is also among those factors.”
However, he also said “the consistent adherence of the Russian Federation towards sovereignty and territorial integrity of states, [and] the supremacy of international law” were factors, too.
“Currently, there are attempts to impose on us rules of the game which would undermine all these principals. Now it is important for us to maintain endurance and resist the temptation of yielding to the provocation. It is important not to undermine the existing system of international relations, as is stated in the statement of the State Duma,” Lavrov added.
He also said that certain forces, which he described as “provokers,” also tried to undermine the existing negotiating and peacekeeping operations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. “They want to oust us from these mechanisms under any pretext, to replace our peacekeepers with western ones,” Lavrov said.
“I fully support that part of the State Duma’s statement, which is related to the necessity of continuing activities within existing formats, regarding Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestria; to oppose any attempts of foreign political, economic and especially military pressure on Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdnestria. We will further demand an end to illegal actions on the creation of alternative structures in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.”
“Georgia’s possible attempt to use force for the resolution of conflicts and especially to use NATO membership for this purpose is absolutely unacceptable,” Lavrov continued. “It would thoroughly change the situation for the populations of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, most of whom are Russian citizens. Russia always supported and will still support its compatriots both in respect of the protection of their legitimate rights and socio-economic issues. We rely upon close relations with the Russian State Duma particularly in respect of strengthening the relevant legal framework.”