|It is most likely that Abkhazia peace plan would
face harsh criticism.
A group of Georgian political and legal experts submitted a document to the Georgian National Security Council (NSC) that envisages linking Tbilisi and Sukhumi within a single federal state in an attempt to settle the Abkhazia conflict.
If approved by the NSC, the concept will become the first document reflecting the official view of Tbilisi for the resolution of this conflict. Civil Georgia interviewed on May 19 one of the co-authors of this document, legal expert and former Deputy Justice Minister Kote Kublashvili, who unveiled details of the concept.
The document implies the creation of a two-member federation state. Abkhazia would enjoy the largest possible degree of autonomy in exchange for the abandoning of its current uncompromising position concerning total independence. “Abkhazia will have all the rights of a sovereign state except one – the right to [internationally recognized] independence,” Kublashvili said.
Abkhazia Status and Distribution of Powers
According to the concept, the Georgian and Abkhaz sides should sign agreements over non-resumption of hostilities and solving of disputes exclusively through negotiations.
After that, the Federal State of Georgia and its co-member, the Abkhazian Republic, will sign an agreement between the two sides which would outline the distribution of powers between the two members of the federation. “None of the sides will be able to amend this agreement unilaterally without the approval of the other side,” Kote Kublashvili says.
According to the document, defense and foreign policy, border defense, customs system and the fight against organized crime will fall within the jurisdiction of the central authorities of the federation. All the other issues will be run independently by Abkhazia.
The Republic of Abkhazia will not have its own armed forces but it will maintain a police force. The Abkhazians will be able to serve in those army units which will be located on the territory of Abkhazia.
All the disputable issues related to distribution of powers will be decided by the Constitutional Court.
Governance System and Elections
According to the document, Abkhazia will be a parliamentary republic; however the concept allows for the introduction of the post of President of Abkhazia, if the Abkhazians demand it.
The central authorities demand only to ensure that the presidential elections are held without any ethnic discrimination. It will not be required that the President of Abkhazia must be an ethnic Abkhazian. However, it will be obligatory that a presidential candidate speaks both Georgian and Abkhazian.
A majority of the Abkhazian parliament will be made up of ethnic Abkhazians.
“Since Georgians will make up the majority of Abkhazia’s population [after the return of displaced persons], the Abkhazians may become a minority in the Parliament. To avoid this, we plan to fix quotas for the Parliament,” Kublashvili said.
Hence, the election system will allow for particular privileges for ethnic Abkhazians. Abkhazians will have more seats in the executive government as well.
Moreover, seats for ethnic Abkhazians will be allocated in the Georgian Federal Parliament, and the members who fill these seats will enjoy the right to veto issues concerning Abkhazia. If the Abkhazian MPs do not approve particular proposals over Abkhazia, the document will not pass in the Georgian Federal Parliament.
“This is an additional guarantee implied by the federal agreement. These guarantees are important for the restoration of trust for the Georgians by the Abkhaz side,” Kublashvili says.
Return of IDPs and Refugees
The return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) to Abkhazia is one of the key points of the document. “Displaced persons should return gradually and voluntarily,” Kublashvili says.
The concept envisions the taking of a census to determine the population of Abkhazia, including the refugees and IDPs living outside Abkhazia at present. The census will be conducted through a joint Georgian-Abkhazian effort.
The document also considers monetary compensation for those displaced persons whose apartments and houses were destroyed during the armed conflict. “This process needs funds. Hence, we will need international assistance,” Mr. Kublashvili said.
Moreover, after the return of refugees and IDPs to Abkhazia, those persons who have previously never lived in Abkhazia will not be able to gain permanent resident status there. The number of people from other parts of Georgia who will express a willingness to live in Abkhazia is not expected to exceed 1-2% of the total population of Abkhazia.
According to the document, the elections in Abkhazia should be held only after the return of refugees and IDPs.
People who will permanently reside in Abkhazia, regardless of their nationality, will be citizens of Abkhazia, granted that they resided there before the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict. Simultaneously, they will be citizens of the Georgian Federal State, the only one of the two states that will be recognized under international law.
Economy and Currency
The document envisages lifting of the economic sanctions currently in place against Abkhazia and the restoration of rail and air links between Tbilisi and Sukhumi.
Abkhazia will be granted the right to fix and collect dues and taxes. However, Abkhazia will also have to transfer a part of these taxes to the central budget.
The Georgian Lari (GEL) will be put into circulation in Abkhazia. But, unlike the rest of Georgian GEL banknotes and coins, in Abkhazia these notes and coins will depict Abkhaz national symbols and will be in both the Abkhaz and Georgian languages. The banknotes issued in Abkhazia will circulate and be honored in the rest of Georgia as well.
This document has already been submitted to the National Security Council for consideration.