Russia is reluctant to openly oppose the Berlin-proposed peace plan, instead relying on both Tbilisi and Sokhumi to bury it, Giorgi Khutsishvili, head of the Tbilisi-based International Center on Conflict and Negotiation, said in a newspaper article.
Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, said after meeting with his German counterpart, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, on July 18 that the German plan was “a step in the right direction” and “conceptually absolutely correct.” He, however, also reiterated Moscow’s position that a treaty on the non-use of force and return of displaced persons should not be linked and the non-use of force treaty should be in the first phase rather than the return of displaced persons. Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh after meeting with the German foreign minister earlier on the same day was more forthright, saying the plan was unacceptable.
“Lavrov and Bagapsh are now playing good cop, bad cop with Bagapsh rejecting the plan outright, and Lavrov, although having some critical remarks, speaking positively on the plan,” the Georgian pundit wrote in his op-ed article published by the Georgian daily Rezonansi on July 21.
He said that Russia, in an attempt to maintain the levers the conflict gives it over Georgia, “wants to thwart any kind of real peace plan.” “But it [Russia] wants to achieve it so that [the Georgian and Abkhaz] sides are to be blamed for the failure of the plan,” the pundit added.
A similar position was laid out by the Russian daily Kommersant on July 21, which said that Lavrov’s statement that the plan was “conceptually absolutely correct” sounded “sensational.”
“But in fact, Moscow seems to have decided not to play the role of grave-digger of the plan, which in itself has little chance of success,” Kommersant wrote.