5th Dec 2023

Georgian government announces Abkhaz peace proposal

The Georgian government announced a series of proposals on Friday (28 March) aiming to resolve its conflict with the break-away republic of Abkhazia, days ahead of a NATO summit where the Caucasian country is hoping to win a Membership Action Plan – the first step on the path to membership in the alliance.

The key elements of the plan offer the de facto independent republic a new post of vice-president of Georgia to be occupied by an Abkhazian, a veto over legislation relating to Abkhaz concerns, and the creation of a 'free economic zone' aimed at boosting growth in the region.

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  • Kodori Gorge in Abkhazia, a breakaway republic of Georgia (Photo: Wikipedia)

"There are no issues that we and the Abkhazians cannot solve through negotiations," said Georgian President Mikheil Sakashvili in announcing the proposals.

"Unlimited autonomy, wide federalism, and very serious representation in the central governmental bodies of Georgia - all will be guaranteed, with the support of international guarantors," he added.

The only issue not up for discussion, said Mr Sakashvili, was the "disintegration of Georgia."

The separatist Abkhaz government responded on Saturday (29 March) that remaining part of Georgia was out of the question.

The republic's foreign minister, Serge Shamba, said: "Abkhazia's authorities aren't going to hold any talks with Georgia on political issues because Georgia violated the fundamental agreement on ceasefire ... when it deployed military units in the upper part of Kodori gorge in July 2006."

"Until Georgia withdraws its troops from the Kodori gorge, Abkhazia's authorities will not agree to hold talks," he said.

Specifically, the proposals offer the region "broad political representation" for the Abkhaz, including a new post of vice-president of Georgia reserved for an Abkhazian. The region would also under the peace plan gain the right to veto legislation related to the constitutional status of Abkhazia, and to issues related to Abkhaz culture, language, and ethnicity.

The proposals also include the establishment of a joint Free Economic Zone in the Gali region of Abkhazia, including the sea port of Ochamchire, along with international guarantees of Abkhaz autonomy and an offer to Russia to help mediate a peaceful resolution of the conflict.

Sabine Fraser, the Europe programme director with the International Crisis Group, the conflict analysis organisation, said: "It is positive that the Georgian government and the Georgian president are making overtures towards Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but such actions need to be implemented unilaterally, without preconditions."

"Confidence-building measures need to be taken before any discussion of final status determination can take place."

Referring to the Abkhazian republic's instant rejection of the offer, Ms Fraser said: "On the other hand, Abkhazia should be more flexible and try to find to some common ground with Georgia and take part in confidence-building measures."

The Georgian government offer comes less than a week ahead of a meeting of NATO leaders in Bucharest (2-4 April) where enlargement of the alliance is on the table. Georgia, along with Ukraine, which is also hoping to be offered a membership action plan, have long held ambitions to join the military pact.

A MAP assists countries wanting to join the alliance in their preparations by providing advice, assistance and practical support on aspects of NATO membership.

Resistance to Georgia's membership in NATO has largely centred around reluctance of some members of the alliance to inherit the instability resulting from the country's separatist conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another break-away republic.

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