Georgia is ready to sign non-use of force treaty with Russia, but not with Moscow’s “cronies” in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, Grigol Vashadze, the Georgian foreign minister said on April 19.
Speaking at a news conference at UN headquarters in New York, Vashadze said signing of this treaty with directly with Sokhumi and Tskhinvali, as Russia wants it, would be Tbilisi’s mistake, because it would help to legitimize Moscow’s proxy regimes in the occupied territories.
He said that although there was no “legal ground” to have a separate non-use of force agreement with Russia, as there already was August 12, 2008 ceasefire accord, Tbilisi could still sign it if “Russia is willing to get a supplementary agreement on non-use of force.”
“No problem, Georgia is ready to sign it with Russia anytime, anyplace,” he said. “But Russia does not want to sign that agreement; Russia wants us to sign it with representatives of those regimes in Sokhumi and Tskhinvali and this is out of question, because of two reasons; first: their [referring to authorities in the breakaway regions] signature do not have and will not have any legitimacy, they do not exist; second: if somehow we make this mistake and sign this agreement, not with the Russian Federation, but with so called states, then we are adding to their legitimacy and we are not prepared for that.”
He also said that the Georgian government’s strategy, approved in January, envisaging engagement with the residents of the breakaway regions, contains “a legal obligation” that Tbilisi will not use force.
Vashadze also said that Tbilisi was ready to engage in direct talks with Moscow, but the problem was that Russia “claims they will not speak with Georgia’s democratically elected government.”
“We are ready to talk with Russians anytime, anywhere. We are not afraid to talk to the Russian Federation,” he said. “Obviously Russia is not coming to the table, because of a simple reason – they have cornered themselves on August 26, [when Russia] recognized so called independence of so called South Ossetia and Abkhazia.”
“We are ready to talk without any preconditions, except of one – they have to learn to respect international law, territorial integrity, independence and sovereignty of their neighbors.”
He said that Tbilisi had no contacts with Russians, except of Geneva talks, which, Vashadze said, were “stalled”, because of Russia’s “irritating policy” of “blocking everything” with the hands of its Abkhaz and South Ossetian “cronies”.
“But still Geneva talks as a format is indispensable and we will do everything to sustain that format and we will be flexible and constructive,” Vashadze said.
He also said that “minor” exception in the current absence of direct contacts between Moscow and Tbilisi was talks late last year, when it was agreed to reopen Zemo Larsi-Kazbegi border crossing point between Russia and Georgia. Vashadze said that by doing so Tbilisi “opted to help our Armenian friends” in having land access to Russia via Georgia.
Two rounds of talks were held in Yerevan, Armenia and Kazbegi, Georgia in October and December, 2009, respectively, between the Georgian and Russian officials – one in presence of the Armenian officials and the second one in presence of Swiss diplomats. With the diplomatic ties cut since the August war, Switzerland represents Russia's diplomatic interests in Georgia, as well as Georgia's diplomatic interests in Russia through respective countries’ interest sections in the Swiss embassies in Moscow and Tbilisi.