Authorities in breakaway Abkhazia have tabled revised draft of new treaty with Russia, initial version of which was proposed by Moscow last month and some portions of which drew much criticism in Sokhumi.
The text, which was made public on October 30, was drafted by a group, which included representatives from the breakaway region’s parliament, president’s office and government.
Changes were made, among others, in clauses related to combined group of armed forces and its command, citizenship issues, customs controls and joint law enforcement center.
The Abkhaz draft changes title of the document from Russia-proposed “agreement on alliance and integration” to “agreement on alliance and strategic partnership.”
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Like in the Russian draft, creation of “common defense and security space” remains in the Abkhaz version among “key directions” of this “alliance and strategic partnership”.
But instead of carrying out “mutually agreed foreign policy” as it was offered in the Russian draft, Abkhaz proposal revises the wording into “coordinated foreign policy” on the issues of mutual interest.
Abkhaz lawmakers say that this change was recommended by breakaway region’s foreign minister, Viacheslav Chirikba, who, they say, argued that, unlike “coordinated”, the “mutually agreed foreign policy” would imply agreeing “every step” with Moscow.
The Abkhaz draft removes from the Russia-proposed text creation of “common social and economic space” from the key directions of the treaty and instead offers the following wording: “assisting social-economic development of the Republic of Abkhazia.”
Apparently in an attempt to stress on Sokhumi’s aspiration to join Russia-led Eurasian Union, the draft adds to “key directions” the following wording: “creation of conditions for Abkhazia’s full-fledged participation in integration projects on the post-Soviet space, implemented upon the initiative of or/and with assistance of the Russian Federation.”
Defense and Security
Like the Russian draft, the Abkhaz version also has collective defense clause and envisages creation of the Combined Group of Forces.
But it specifies that this joint group of forces should be established with units from the Abkhaz and the Russian armed forces, meaning that the entire Abkhaz forces should not be part of the Combined Group of Forces.
It also specifies that Moscow-proposed “common defense infrastructure” should be established through providing to the Combined Group of Forces by Abkhazia and Russia “separate military facilities.”
Unlike the Moscow-proposed text, the Abkhaz draft specifies that in the peacetime leadership of the joint command should be held on a rotational basis by the Abkhaz and Russian sides.
The Moscow-proposed draft envisages that Russia will appoint commander of the Combined Group of Forces in the time of war or when there is an “immediate threat of aggression.”
This clause is kept in the Abkhaz draft, but it also adds that in time of war or an immediate threat of aggression, deputy commander of the Combined Group of Forces should be appointed by Sokhumi.
The Abkhaz version also adds a clause according to which the Combined Group of Forces will have the right to prepare and carry out operations only if there is an authorization from both Russian and Abkhaz presidents – the text reads that it should be “a joint decision” of the two presidents.
The Abkhaz draft keeps clauses in which Russia takes commitment to fund “standardization” of logistics of the Abkhaz armed forces, as well as salaries of Abkhaz servicemen with those of the Russian armed forces within three years after the entry into force of the treaty.
It, however, also adds a new clause according to which Russia should provide the Abkhaz forces with “modern weapons.”
The Abkhaz draft also sets six-month deadline for signing a separate agreement, which should define funding and implementation details of these provisions of the treaty.
The Moscow-proposed draft envisages taking of “additional measures” by the both sides to “simplify procedures” for granting their citizenships to each other’s citizens.
In its draft Sokhumi refuses to take such commitment and to simplify granting of its citizenship to the Russian citizens.
But the Abkhaz draft keeps a provision in which Russia is offered to further simplify granting of its citizenship to the Abkhaz citizens. Most of the residents in the breakaway region are already Russian passport holders.
Sokhumi’s strong opposition to simplify granting of citizenship to the Russian citizens is caused by its fear that it may pave the way for buying or reclaiming of property in Abkhazia by those ethnic Georgians, who fled Abkhazia as a result the armed conflict in early 1990s and who now reside in Russia and are now Russian citizens.
Border and Customs Control
The Abkhaz draft keeps unchanged Moscow-proposed provision to provide “complete freedom of movement across the Russian-Abkhaz state border” – a measure, which should be subject of “restrictions, imposed for security reasons.”
But unlike Russian draft, which offers joint border protection of only “Abkhaz-Georgian border”, the Abkhaz draft speaks of taking measures within two years after entry into force of the treaty to provide joint protection of not only border with Georgia, but also of other sections of the land and maritime borders of the breakaway region.
The Abkhaz draft also adds new clause according to which Moscow and Sokhumi would jointly secure “engineering and technical” equipping of the border infrastructure with Georgia.
The Russian-proposed draft offers “joint” customs control on movement of people, transport and cargo at entry points in Abkhazia, including at ports.
This clause was criticized in Sokhumi and as a result it was entirely removed from the text tabled by the authorities of the breakaway region.
The Abkhaz draft also sets two years, instead of Russia-proposed 18 months, as a timeframe within which Sokhumi has to “approximate” its customs-related legislation with the one of the Eurasian Economic Union.
While the Russia-proposed draft says that Sokhumi should recognize Russian customs control results, the Abkhaz draft speaks of mutual recognition of each other’s customs control results.
A clause in the Russia-proposed draft, which also drew much criticism in Sokhumi, was the one which offered setting up of Joint Coordinating Center of the Russian and Abkhaz law enforcement agencies within a year after entry into force of the agreement to counter “organized crime, other grave crimes and extremism on the territory of Abkhazia.”
The Abkhaz draft offers a revise wording of this clause, envisaging setting up of “Joint Information-Coordinating Center” of law enforcement agencies to counter “organized crime and other grave crimes on the territories of the Republic of Abkhazia and the Russian Federation.”
The Abkhaz draft also specifies that this center should help the both sides to coordinate actions in fight against grave crimes, as well as provide “organizational-methodological” assistance to the Abkhaz law enforcement agencies for the purpose of increasing their efficiency.
The Abkhaz draft also says that this center should provide “gathering, storing, protecting, analyzing and sharing of information related to fight against crime.”
The Abkhaz draft keeps mostly unchanged clauses related to the integration of the breakaway region’s social protection, pensions and healthcare systems to the southern federal districts of Russia.
The Abkhaz draft adds a clause, which envisages Russia’s assistance in implementing “programs for development of the Abkhaz language.”