- Announcement made in Saakashvili’s speech to MEPs;
- ‘My pledge constitutes a unilateral declaration of state’;
- ‘Ready for comprehensive talks with Medvedev’;
- Calls on MEPs to qualify Russian presence as occupation;
- ‘Embrace multiculturalism’ and ‘mental revolution’;
- ‘Building democracy at gunpoint’;
President Saakashvili said Georgia was ready for “unilateral initiative to declare that Georgia will never use force to roll back the Russian occupation and to restore its control over the occupied areas.”
In his address to the European Parliament on November 23, Saakashvili said he would send a relevant letter to the UN Secretary General, OSCE Secretary General and EU leaders "stating clearly that we commit ourselves not to use force in order to restore control over our illegally divided country, neither against the occupation forces, nor against their proxies."
“Peace is in our supreme interests,” Saakashvili said, adding that it had “no alternative.”
He said that although the Georgian government considered itself already bound by August 12, 2008 six-point ceasefire agreement not to use force, which Tbilisi was fully implementing, it was decided after thorough elaboration and discussions with the U.S. and European partners to make an additional commitment. He said that Georgia would only retain the right of self-defense in case of attack.
"[Georgia] will only resort to peaceful means in its quest for de-occupation and unification. Even if the Russian Federation refuses to withdraw its occupation forces, even if its proxy militias multiply their human rights violations, Georgia will only retain the right to self-defense in the case of new attacks and invasion of the 80% of the Georgian territory that remains under control of the Georgian government," Saakashvili said.
"My pledge here, in front of you, constitutes a unilateral declaration of state under international law," he added.
Moscow has long been pushing - long before before the August war and afterwards as well - for a non-use of force treaties between Tbilisi and Sokhumi and Tbilisi and Tskhinvali. The most recent proposal by Russia involved "unilateral declarations" signed separately by Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali on non-use of force pledges. Russia itself refuses to sign such document, as it does not consider itself party into the conflict.
Tbilisi's position was that no new such treaty was required as non-use of force commitment already was including in the August 12 six-point ceasefire agreement. At the same time, Georgia’s position was that it was ready to sign a separate new treaty, but on the condition if Russia was also part of it. Georgia also wanted the new treaty to reflect the commitments Russia had already undertaken under the six-point agreement, in particular the part of the agreement, which calls on the parties to return their military forces to the positions held prior to outbreak of hostilities on August 7.
Saakashvili’s announcement at the European Parliament is more close to what Moscow was offering recently, in particular making "unilateral declarations" signed separately by Tbilisi, Sokhumi and Tskhinvali on non-use of force pledges.
Saakashvili said that Georgia’s move to make this commitment on non-use of force was part of Tbilisi’s “constructive unilateralism” - head of EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, Hansjörg Haber, used this term in his article on Civil.ge in August to describe Georgia’s some of the steps made after the August war in respect of the breakaway regions.
In the same speech to the European Parliament Saakashvili also invited Russia and particularly his counterpart, Dmitry Medvedev, to engage in dialogue.
“I am ready for a deep and comprehensive dialogue with my Russian counterpart," he said.
He said Tbilisi remained committed to Geneva talks – a multilateral negotiating format launched after the August, 2008 war. “But we need political dialogue to start as well,” he added.
“I am ready to work the Russian leadership… so that the consequences of the war are reversed and conditions for peace are established,” he said.
He also said that “Russia can play a positive role in transformation of the Caucasus region” and added: “We want Russia as a partner, not as an enemy.”
For this dialogue to start, he continued, the international community must make it clear to the Russian leaders that the situation “is totally irregular and unsustainable” and in order to push Russia to discuss a compromise, “it is essential to clearly state the reality of the situation on the ground.”
For that reason, Saakashvili said, Georgia was asking the international community and the European Parliament to qualify Russian military build up in Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “occupation” of territories of the sovereign country.
“Our constructive unilateralism, and the pledge I have just made, will not have the expected impact if our European friends do not speak out the truth. If you do not speak out the truth, then who will?” Saakashvili said.
Asked at a joint press conference with President Saakashvili after the latter’s address, whether the European Parliament was ready to use term “occupation” in respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, President of European Parliament Jerzy Buzek avoided a direct answer and instead recited the European Parliament’s May, 2010 resolution in which MEPs express unconditional support to Georgia’s territorial integrity.
Initial draft of that resolution included a wording - “occupied territories”, but it was removed from the eventual text passed by MEPs on May 20.
‘Democracy at Gunpoint’
In his 25-minute speech to the European Parliament, which was his second since 2006, Saakashvili also spoke of, what he called, Georgia’s progress in repealing its Soviet legacy since the Rose Revolution – seventh anniversary of which is marked on November 23.
He said that the Rose Revolution triggered “mental revolution”, which helped European transformation of the society.
“This is the message we, the Georgians, brought into the region and this is the message, which unleashed so much anger towards us among the nostalgists of the empire; but this is the message that turned Georgia into laboratory of reforms for our region,” Saakashvili said.
He said that opposite to Soviet policy of “divide to rule”, after the Rose Revolution Georgia started “to embrace multiculturalism”.
He also said that in the process of reforms Georgia had “failures and we’ve learnt from them.” “But we have also had surprising successes,” Saakashvili added.
He said “there is great deal to do” and that Georgia remained strongly committed to democracy and further reforms.
He said that Georgia’s response to Russia’s aggression was more democratic reforms saying that Georgia was building “democracy at gunpoint.”
He also recited in Russian a verse by Russian poet Alexander Galich, written about Georgia: “Splendid and proud country, you respond to mudslinging with a smile”.