South Ossetia President Eduard Kokoyty (left) and North Ossetia - Alania President Taymuraz Mamsurov
Photo: Valery Melnikov
Georgia Quits Mixed Control Commission
The warming of relations between Georgian and Russia has proven to be short-lived. Yesterday, Georgia announced that it was renouncing the work of the Mixed Control Commission for the settlement of the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict. Georgia is determined to internationalize the conflict now and push for the inclusion of OSCE and European Union representation in the commission. That decision was a response to the Russian State Duma's intention to hold hearings on March 13 on acknowledging the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in light of the Kosovo precedent.
Georgian State Minister for Reintegration Temur Yakobashvili reported plans to reconsider the format of the Mixed Control Commission with a statement that “The Georgian side does not see any more sense in the functioning of the MCC. It is not an organization that is capable of bringing the sides closer to a solution to the conflict.” Yakobashvili told Kommersant that he had informed Russian Ambassador to Georgia Vyacheslav Kovalenko of Georgia's decision to stop its participation in the work of the MCC several days ago. “That format does not work, since it does not lead to resolution of the conflict and emergence from the dead end, but only to the freezing of the status quo. Now the Georgian side is represented in the MCC, but the other side has been cloned into three – Russia, South Ossetia and North Ossetia, which in reality represent one side,” Yakobashvili stated. Georgia is suggesting a 2+2+2 format: Russia, Georgia, the South Ossetian government headed by Eduard Kokoity, the pro-Georgian temporary administration of South Ossetia headed by Dmitry Sanakoev, the EU and the OSCE. “We insist that the OSCE and EU be not simply observers, but participants in the peace process with full rights,” Yakobashvili said.
The MCC was established in accordance with the Dagomys Agreement, signed June 24, 1992 by Russian president Boris Yeltsin and head of the state council of Georgia Eduard Shevardnadze. The commission is made up of cochairman from Russia, Georgia, the Republic of North Ossetia-Alania and the self-proclaimed republic of South Ossetia. The OSCE has observer status. The MCC meets periodically in Tbilisi, Moscow, Tskhinvali and Vladikavkaz. For the past few years, the session have continually fallen through. Last year, there was only one full meeting. Tbilisi has been voicing its dissatisfaction with the MCC since Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili came to power, declaring the return of South Ossetia and Abkhazia to be one of his main goals. Georgian officials have repeatedly suggested reforming the MCC and have even mentioned such possibilities as including representatives of the United States or NATO in it. However, as chairman of the Georgian Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs Konstantin Gabashvili told Kommersant yesterday, they are no longer under consideration. “Members of the MCC should be subjects of international law that are interested in security in Europe. NATO and the U.S. are clearly not among them.”
The EU and OSCE missions in Georgia have not yet responded to Tbilisi's proposal. Head of the temporary administration of South Ossetia Dmitry Sanakoev responded readily, however. “We are ready to be included in the negotiation process immediately,” he told Kommersant yesterday. “Today the MCC should work for people's benefit and not engage in political issues,” he added. Sanakoev considers his competitor Eduard Kokoity the main destructive element in the MCC. Sanakoev also suggested that “Bringing the U.S. or EU into resolution of the conflict would do nothing but make the situation more tense. The question should be decided between Georgia and Russia.” His closest advisor, People of South Ossetia for Peace movement leader Vladimir Sanakoev, told Kommersant that “If a tree hasn't borne fruit in 15 years, it's time to make a graft onto it or else cut it down.”
An Inconvenient Format
Moscow received the Georgian with hostility. “We think the format of the MCC creates enough opportunities to find a solution to the conflict,” head of the department of CIS countries of the Russian Foreign Ministry Andrey Kelin told Kommersant. “There are now two three-stage plans for settlement, the Saakashvili plan and the Kokoity plan, but the Georgian side constantly sabotages their consideration,” he added. Moscow adamantly refuses to include the Dmitry Sanakoev administration in the MCC. “He is a Georgian official, the head of a district, so he does not have the necessary status to participate in such a format,” Kelin said. When asked if North Ossetia, as a subject of the Russian Federation, has the necessary status, the diplomat did not answer.
Tskhinvali was no less irritated by the Georgian move. “Georgia has long been doing everything it can to neutralize the MCC as a format for settling the conflict,” Irina Gagloeva, head of the South Ossetian administration's press and information department, told Kommersant. “All of those actions are due to a desire to give at least some legitimacy to the pseudo-structure of Dmitry Sanakoev.” She added that “Tskhinvali will not agree to any changes in the format of the MCC and will not hold any negotiations with the Georgian minister of reintegration.”
Russian Foreign Ministry Ambassador-at-Large Yury Popov, who represents Russia in the MCC, flew to Tbilisi yesterday to settle the issue with Georgia. Yakobashvili warned him immediately that he would be received as a Russian diplomat, not as his colleague from the MCC. After fruitless negotiations, Popov complained that “There are no magic formats for conflict resolution. The current format has far from exhausted its possibilities, but goodwill of all participants in the peace process is needed.” After the negotiations in Tbilisi, Popov flew to Tskhinvali. Yakobashvili's parting words were, “As long as I am in office, Georgia will not take part in those useless MCC sessions.”
The Shadow of Kosovo
Yakubashvili's strong words mark the first break in the noticeably warmer relations between Moscow and Tbilisi. Immediately after his reelection to a second term, in January, Saakashvili began to speak of his intentions to improve relations with Russia. Hopes for better relations, the main hindrance to which is the problem of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, picked up after the recent CIS summit in Moscow. The Georgian leader was able to talk with both Russian president Vladimir Putin and First Deputy Prime Minister (now also President Elect) Dmitry Medvedev. Even at the time, however, a source in the presidential administration noted dubiously that everything could change. “The fate of Abkhazia and South Ossetia depends only on Saakashvili's behavior,” he noted.
Russia made the first unfriendly step. The State Duma Committee on CIS Affairs and Relations with Compatriots proposed holding parliamentary hearings on recognition of Abkhazia, South Ossetia and Transdniestria in connection with the recognition of Kosovo's independence. First deputy chairman of the committee Konstantin Zatulin told Kommersant that the council of The State Duma approved the proposal yesterday and the hearings will be held on March 13. “We were simply forced to consider the situation, since the leaders of the unrecognized republics contacted us, and citizens of the Russian Federation live their. The hearing cannot make final decisions. But I think it is possible that the Duma will propose to the president and prime minister that the territories or some of the territories be recognized,” Zatulin told Kommersant. He said that the Duma intends to invite representatives from all the conflicting sides to the hearings, including parliamentarians from Georgia and Moldova. “Of course, Georgian parliamentarians have never minced words when addressing their Russian colleagues, but that has to be overcome,” he added.
Georgian parliament chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee Gabashvili told Kommersant that the holding of the hearings is itself an “outright provocation.” “It all goes against what representatives of Russian executive power say. Those who plan to invite us to that political show don't understand anything. No Georgian parliamentarians will go there,” he said. He declined to speak about the possibility of the recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Dmitry Sanakoev admitted to Kommersant that he considered that development of events a possibility. “After what happened in Kosovo, it would be strange to expect Russia not to recognize South Ossetia. But, as a result, Russia will have war in the Caucasus.” The Georgian Foreign Ministry firmly refused to discuss that topic yesterday. But the Russian Foreign Ministry sharply denied the possibility that Moscow would recognize the regimes in Tskhinvali and Sukhumi. “We'll talk about that after March 13,” a source there said.
All the Article in Russian as of Mar. 05, 2008