Georgian PM Irakli Garibashvili said that the Moscow-proposed draft treaty with Abkhazia is “alarming” and if signed it will first and foremost pose threat to self-identity of “the proud Abkhaz nation.”
He also said that if signed this treaty will be “directly in conflict” with the Abkhaz nation’s “25-year-old struggle for self-determination and recognition.”
Garibashvili made the remarks while speaking with journalists late on Thursday evening in the port of Batumi, where he visited the U.S. 6th Fleet’s flagship, USS Mount Whitney, which makes a port call in Georgia.
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The PM also said that he has an “idea in respect of Abkhazians”, which he declined to specify, but said that he would discuss it with the State Security and Crisis Management Council at a meeting on October 18. He said that Tbilisi’s “final position” of the planned new treaty between Moscow and Sokhumi will also be elaborated at that meeting of the council.
PM Garibashvili said that the State Security and Crisis Management Council gathered “immediately” after a report about the Moscow-proposed treaty emerged on October 13.
“We have elaborated the position, which was then voiced by the Foreign Ministry, and I will not repeat now that statement, which was agreed with me and the security council,” Garibashvili said.
“Our government took all the possible constructive steps in order to de-escalate situation and to normalize [ties] with Russia,” the PM said.
“We launched direct dialogue, which was a recommendation and advice of the entire international community,” he said referring to talks, led by PM’s special envoy for relations with Russia, Zurab Abashidze, and Russia’s deputy foreign minister, Grigory Karasin.
As a result of this “pragmatic” policy, he said, it was made possible to reopen Russian market for Georgian products leading to more than five-fold increase of exports to Russia.
“We spared no effort in order to demonstrate that we are pragmatic, constructive and stable government. Despite of that, as you have seen, these efforts had no significant effect on political relations [with Russia], not counting trade and economic relations,” Garibashvili said.
“This [proposed treaty] is alarming for me,” he said. “I want to say it absolutely sincerely that personally I am concerned very much about the fate of our Abkhaz brothers – the proud nation for preservation of whose self-identity I will do everything; I am ready to do everything in order to preserve self-identity of Abkhazians as one of the oldest nation, which is our brotherly nation.”
“If this treaty is signed in its current form, it will of course be damaging and dangerous first and foremost for Abkhazians,” he said.
“I do not want to believe that this is what the population of Abkhazia and the Abkhaz nation strived for. This is directly in conflict with their 25-year-old struggle for self-determination and recognition and for achieving so called independence; it is in direct contradiction, which is incomprehensible for me.”
“As we have heard, there is also a controversy about it in [Abkhazia] itself. We have seen that they have quite a critical stance towards this [Moscow-proposed] text,” Garibashvili said.
“We were also waiting for an official position of the Russian authorities. A meeting between Abashidze and Karasin was held [in Prague] today; I had a brief phone conversation with Mr. Abashidze. The Russian side has actually confirmed that this agreement is now being discussed, but it will become known later whether this text will remain or not and when it might be signed. I am also very much interested in what the Russian authorities’ final position will be,” Garibashvili said.
The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement after the meeting of Abashidze and Karasin that “nobody has a right, and ability either” to prevent Moscow and Sokhumi from bringing their ties to a new level.
“I also do not want to believe that the Russian authorities will respond to our pragmatic and constructive policy with such a step. If look at it pragmatically, it should not be in no one’s interest,” PM Garibashvili said.
PM Garibashvili said that an “expanded session” of the State Security and Crisis Management Council with participation of senior lawmakers from the ruling GD coalition will be held on October 18 to elaborate Tbilisi’s “final position.”
“I have an idea in respect of Abkhazians, because I am thinking a lot about their fate and about their future in general as of our brotherly nation. But will refrain from speaking publicly about this idea, because I want this idea at first to be discussed within the State Security Council and within the [ruling coalition] team, and it will become public only after that if we deem it necessary,” Garibashvili said.