- ’Abkhazia is not occupied’;
- ’Georgia has not yet given up revanchist aspirations’
Geneva discussions create an important forum through which Sokhumi can keep direct contacts with the West, but the Abkhaz side had “to take a pause” and temporarily suspend its participation in the talks, Abkhaz leader, Sergey Bagapsh, said on July 7.
In his annual address to the breakaway region’s parliament, Bagapsh said that Sokhumi suspended its participation the Geneva talks because negotiators were deadlocked on the issue of a non-use of force treaty.
“[Such treaty] would significantly help to remove threat of renewal of the conflict by Georgia,” Abkhaz news agency, Apsnipress, reported quoting Bagapsh. “But the Georgian side evades from discussion of such document and insists on withdrawal of the Russian forces from Abkhazia and South Ossetia and on deployment of international forces, which is of course absolutely unacceptable for our states.”
He also blamed co-mediators of the Geneva talks – EU, OSCE and UN – for siding with Tbilisi.
“So we are not going to participate in [talks], unless this situation is not changed,” Bagapsh said.
He, however, also hailed the Geneva talks as the only mechanism for Sokhumi to have direct ties with the United States, which is participant of the Geneva talks, as well as with EU, OSCE and UN.
“Abkhazia has no other such channel [of communication],” Bagapsh said. “That’s way we took a pause to give mediators possibility to prepare concrete, well-thought proposals.”
When last month Sokhumi announced about its intention to temporarily pull out from Geneva talks, Tbilisi said that it was in fact Russia’s attempt to undermine the Geneva process with the hands of its “puppet regime” in Sokhumi.
During her visit in Tbilisi on July 5 the U.S. Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, called on the Abkhaz side “to constructively participate” in the Geneva talks.
Responding to Clinton’s remarks condemning Russia’s “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Sergey Bagapsh said that “Russian forces are not occupying Abkhazia.”
“The Russian forces are here based on inter-state agreement [between Sokhumi and Moscow] to provide security and stability in the region,” Bagapsh said and added that the Abkhaz parliament and society “should react” of such statements made by Clinton.
He also said that although Abkhazia became more secured after the August war, the security issue still remained very important as “Georgia has not yet given up its revanchist aspirations.”
Bagapsh said that deepening of relations with Abkhaz communities in Turkey, Syria and Western Europe was one of the priorities of Sokhumi’s foreign policy. In this context he stressed that establishment of direct sea and air communication between Abkhazia and Turkey would significantly facilitate contacts with the Abkhaz community in Turkey and their potential repatriation back to Abkhazia.
Tbilisi also considers possibility of dialogue with the Abkhaz community in Turkey. The government’s State Strategy on Occupied Territories proposes such dialogue with the Abkhaz diaspora – descendants of those tens of thousands of Muslim Abkhazians, who had to move to the then Ottoman empire, as part of a larger Muslim migration process from the Caucasus in the nineteenth century.