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Paper: Kremlin Considers Official Ties with Abkhazia, S.Ossetia
Civil Georgia, Tbilisi / 14 Apr.'08 / 15:18

The Kremlin has drafted a presidential decree “on basic directions of developing the Russian Federation’s relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia” envisaging boosting ties with the breakaway regions, the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta reported on April 14. (Link to the English translation of the Nezavisimaya Gazeta’s article)

The newspaper reported an unnamed Kremlin source as saying that the decree would give the green light to the various ministries and state structures of Russia to open representations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia “to establish direct official cooperation with counterpart structures of both of the unrecognized republics.” Opening Russian consulates is not yet on the agenda, according to the newspaper.

“It is most likely that a single representation will be opened, lets say – for the protection of the interests of citizens of the Russian Federation [residing in Abkhazia and South Ossetia] – missions of separate state structures can be established under the umbrella of that representation,” Nezavisimaya Gazeta quoted the source as saying.

Regular Russian diplomats, who officially will be registered as stationed at the Russian embassy in Tbilisi, will be sent to the breakaway regions, according to the newspaper. “Although they will have no official accreditation and no Georgian visas,” it said.

The newspaper also reported that the timing of signing the draft presidential decree seems to be a sensitive issue. The source speaking to the Nezavisimaya Gazeta said he hoped the decree would be signed by outgoing Russian President Vladimir Putin before he steps down in early May, because otherwise it could be dragged out because of bureaucratic problems after Dmitry Medvedev takes over the Kremlin.

Konstantin Zatulin, deputy chairman of the Russia’s State Duma committee on CIS issues and relations with compatriots, however, told the Nezavisimaya Gazeta: “Now might not be the best time for taking radical decision.”

He said that Russia should refrain from formal recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia at least till December 2009. “Dmitry Medvedev should not start his presidency with steps that would deteriorate extremely his relations with the west. Abkhazia’s recognition is a risky move.”

“But on the other hand it might be worth taking that risk today, because it might be late tomorrow,” MP Zatulin then added. “The Kosovo case will not remain acute forever. Now our steps towards unrecognized republics will be met with understanding by the world, as a step in response to the U.S. recognition of Kosovo. If we fail to resolve the issue now, it will still  be around by the [2014 Winter] Olympic Games [in Sochi]. And we already have an example: China-Tibet.”

The Russian daily Kommersant reported on April 7 that Russia’s National Security Council planned to discuss concrete proposals to boost economic and political ties with Abkhazia. The set of proposals included, according to the Kommersant, cooperation in the banking sector, involving providing soft loans to the Abkhaz central bank at 5% interest rate; removing double taxation and integration of Abkhazia into Russia’s customs system; international maritime links with ports in Sokhumi, Ochamchire and Bichvinta (Pitsunda), as well as operation of an airport in Sokhumi.

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