President Saakashvili said on April 23 he would not comment on, as he put it, “style or level” of PM Ivanishvili’s address to the Parliamentary Assembly of Council of Europe (PACE) in general, but added that some of his remarks on Russia and breakaway regions were source of concern as they might have negative legal consequences for Georgia.
“In particular, when he was asked about the parallels between Kosovo, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali, the Georgian Prime Minister said that there is only one difference: Kosovo allowed many international observers on its territories; Abkhazia and Tskhinvali are not allowing observers and therefore it will be difficult for Abkhazia and Tskhinvali to have their representatives in PACE. I want to remind to the Georgian Prime Minister that Kosovo and Abkhazia are as different as the heaven and the earth. Such comparisons can be made only by Russian figures and not by any sober-minded European politician and especially Georgian politician. There was ethnic cleansing in Kosovo, which was recognized by the international community and the entire world recognized Kosovo; there was Milosevic in Serbia and that result [Kosovo’s recognition] was stemming for Milosevic’s responsibility. It has nothing to do with allowing or not allowing observers and even making any parallels of this kind between Kosovo and our territories is absolutely inadmissible from legal point of view and it may have political and legal circumstances for our country,” Saakashvili said.
Saakashvili was referring to Ivanishvili’s remarks made in response to a question from head of the Russian delegation to PACE, Alexei Pushkov; the latter asked PM what he thought about allowing Abkhaz and South Ossetian representatives, regardless of status of these two entities, to speak before PACE. In his question Russian MP also mentioned decision of PACE to allow two lawmakers from Kosovo to participate in PACE committee meetings.
“Abkhazia and South Ossetia are parts of Georgia, so Ossetians and Abkhazians will of course be able to participate in the work [of PACE] as members of our [Georgian] delegation,” PM Ivanishvili said and then added in response to mentioning of Kosovo in this context: “As you are aware, Kosovo was itself inviting international monitors and was completely open for cooperation, which regrettably is not the case [with respect of Abkhazia and South Ossetia] and we have no [international] monitoring in Abkhazia and South Ossetia; so in this regard these [regions] are unfortunately closed... So I can’t see such perspective.”
Saakashvili also criticized Ivanishvili’s response to a question from another Russian lawmaker about relations with Russia and “Saakashvili’s aggression” in August, 2008.
“When our ill-wisher MP asks you that Georgia committed aggression against Abkhazians and South Ossetians, I think that the Georgian leader should not be answering by saying that ‘we have really made a lot of mistakes over the past years’,” Saakashvili said.
“This is not the answer which the entire world wants to hear from us, because who will defend us if even we do not defend our positions; who will say a word; who will arrive here and stand beside us; who will save our independence if one of the Georgian leaders says in response to ‘aggression’ remarks: ‘yes we have made lots of mistakes and we will not do it again in future’. This is not what we should be doing. Whose hearts are we trying to win? It will have the consequences for Georgia’s sovereignty, Georgia’s freedom and its future, Georgia’s territorial integrity… He [Ivanishvili] can slam me in Strasburg as much as he wants… but he should not play with the issues of territorial integrity because it is the matter of our future and we may irreparably spoil something,” Saakashvili said.
When asking how Georgian new government’s intention to mend ties with Russia reconciles with Tbilisi’s policy of restoring its territorial integrity, a Russian MP Tamerlan Aguzarov also told PM that “knowing that Abkhazians and South Ossetians do not want to be in Georgia, Saakashvili unleashed aggression in August 2008 against South Ossetia.”
“I want to remind to the audience that over the past 20 years there were many mistakes made by the Georgian authorities as well in respect of our brothers Abkhazians and Ossetians; mistakes were from both sides,” Ivanishvili responded. “Time is required to heal the wounds. Our goal is not to repeat the same mistakes and not to even think about using force.”
Ivanishvili said that key to resolving these conflicts was within Georgia itself. “Georgia’s economy should be revived, democracy developed; Georgia should become interesting for Ossetians and Abkhazians, for Europe and for Russia,” Ivanishvili said. “Only after this we can judge about who wants what. Now when there are lots of questions in respect to all the sides, making right conclusion will be very difficult.”