Russia’s President Vladimir Putin and leader of breakaway South Ossetia Leonid Tibilov will sign treaty on “alliance and integration” on March 18, according to the Kremlin.
The Georgian Foreign Ministry, which condemns this and Moscow’s similar treaty with another breakaway region of Abkhazia as part of “creeping annexation” of occupied territories, also slammed Russia for timing of the planned signing, coinciding with thirty first round of the Geneva international discussions – talks, which were launched after the August, 2008 war with the participation of negotiators from Georgia, Russia, the United States, as well as from Tskhinvali and Sokhumi, and co-chaired by representatives of the EU, UN and OSCE.
“During the talks heads of the states will discuss broad range of bilateral issues and coordination in providing stability and security in the Transcaucasus region,” the Kremlin said on March 13.
Signing will be held in Moscow, according to breakaway South Ossetian leader’s spokesperson.
According to reports in some Russian media sources, signing of the treaty was originally planned for March 11, but was postponed for unknown reasons. President Putin, who also postponed visit to Kazakhstan this week, has not been seen on live television since March 5, triggering rumors he was ill, which was denied by the Kremlin.
Georgian chief negotiator in the Geneva talks, deputy foreign minister Davit Dondua said in a statement on Friday that Moscow’s choice of date for signing of this so called treaty, coinciding with the next round of the Geneva international discussions, is a “deliberate insult” of these talks and co-chairs from the EU, UN and OSCE.
“Such behavior indicates once again that, regrettably, Russia not only puts itself beyond the international law, but also disrespects elementary diplomatic protocol,” the Georgian negotiator said.
He said that “such demonstrative action” by Russia should be “a reminder for our European colleagues and mediators in the peace process of how serious challenges Georgia is facing.”
“We call on the co-chairs of [the Geneva talks] to double their efforts in order for Russia to reciprocate Georgia’s non-use of force declaration,” he said.
“We also call our allies to immediately consider international security arrangements [in conflict regions], which will strengthen peace and stability in our region.”
“I want to stress that Georgia remains committed to the format and essence of the Geneva international discussions. We are ready to discuss solutions to the existing situation calmly, openly and constructively with all the other participants. We call on Russian participants to show similar professionalism and responsibility towards their own commitments,” the Georgian negotiator said.
Signing of the treaty with breakaway South Ossetia will come four months after Moscow signed treaty on “alliance and strategic partnership” with another breakaway region of Abkhazia. After revision of the initial draft of the treaty with Tskhinvali, the final text is now more similar to the one that was signed between Moscow and Sokhumi. It, however, contains clauses, which envisage deeper integration of the breakaway region with Russia than the one signed with breakaway Abkhazia.
According to the draft treaty “separate units of the armed forces and security agencies of the South Ossetian Republic will become part of the armed forces and security agencies of the Russian Federation.”
The draft also envisages “integration” of customs service of the breakaway region with the one of the Russian Federation.
Like in case of Abkhazia, treaty with Tskhinvali envisages setting up of Joint Information-Coordinating Center of law enforcement agencies for the purpose of “coordinating” fight against “organized crime and other grave crimes.”
Russia takes commitment to “co-finance” gradual increase of salaries of employees of the state-funded entities in breakaway South Ossetia to the level existing in Russia’s North Caucasus Federal District.
Russia also pledges to increase pensions for those residents of the breakaway region, which hold Russian passports, starting from 2016, according to the draft, which also envisages further easing of granting Russian citizenship to the residents of the breakaway region.