New Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze at the CIS Parliamentary Assembly
“We joined the CIS hoping that peacekeeping forces would have given us an opportunity to resolve Abkhazian conflict peacefully. But, unfortunately, it did not happen” – stated Nino Burjanadze on November 24 during the session of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States. She said, that Abkhazian issue is the main obstacle in Georgian-Russian relations.
First visit abroad of the newly elected parliamentary chairperson took place in St. Petersburg, Russia, where Burjanadze participated in the plenary session of CIS Parliamentary Assembly. She met heads of the parliaments of Russia, Armenia and Azerbaijan as well. Meetings of the speakers of these four states would be held at least twice a year in the future.
Session of the Assembly on November 23-24 was dedicated to the 10th anniversary of creation of CIS. Georgia joined this organization in 1993, after defeat of the Georgian armed forces in Abkhazian conflict and expelling of ethnic Georgian population from this region.
In spring 1994 CIS (in fact Russian) peacekeeping forces entered the conflict zone. In October 2001 the Georgian Parliament adopted decision regarding withdrawal of the Russian peacekeepers from Abkhazia. Russian political circles reacted negatively on this decision of the Georgian side.
“Georgia definitely has deep sympathy for those 86 Russian peacekeepers who died during their mission in Abkhazia. However, since 1994 1600 civilians were killed in the conflict zone. Furthermore, situation has become so tense, that real threat of armed conflict has emerged again” – said Burjanadze at the session. “Decision of the Georgian Parliament is final and would not be changed. But if the leaders of the CIS countries decide to internationalize mandate of the peacekeeping forces, then the Parliament of Georgia will support this decision” – stated Burjanadze.
“Abkhazian issue is the main obstacle in Georgian-Russian relations. However, we do not ask Russia for military assistance. It is necessary to make Abkhazian separatists feel at every level of Russian government, that they should not count on Russia’s assistance” – said the Chairperson of the Parliament.
Abkhazian issue, as well as other conflicts in Caucasus, was between the central subject of bilateral and multilateral discussions of Nino Burjanadze.
On November 24 Georgian Parliamentary Speaker met Igor Stroev, Chairman of Russian Federation Council to discuss wide range of issues of Georgian-Russian relations, including Abkhazian and Chechen conflicts.
Igor Stroev called upon the Parliamentary Assembly to adopt joint Antiterrorist Charter, which would obligate each participating state to extradite terrorists, block finances of any terrorist organization. Igor Stroev believes that the modern international law lacks means for combating the terrorism. “There are no mechanisms of use of sanctions against the states, which directly or indirectly support the terrorists” – Stroev stated. The Assembly has unanimously adopted antiterrorist Charter.
Nino Burjanadze had to make comments regarding well-known Chechen field commander Ruslan Gelaev during the visit. Few days prior to visit, Russia’s General Prosecutor’s Office has officially requested the Georgian side to hand over Gelaev to the Russian law enforcers.
“If there are proofs that Gelaev has committed an international crime, that he must stand before the court” – said Burjanadze. However, added that she does not possess information regarding Gelaev’ presence on Georgian territory. “I believe that friendship between Georgian and Russian will continue. But it is very difficult to talk about friendship, when bandits walk freely in Georgia and threaten Russia” – said Stroev.
Speaker of the Russian State Duma Genadi Seleznyov made way more radical statement. He said that Russia has the right to bomb Chechen terrorists on any territory and will do so if necessary.
After meeting with Seleznyov, Burjanadze said that the two countries are starting their relations form the ‘blank page’. “We agreed to stop talking the language of ultimatums. We both wish to end mutual allegations” – stated Burjanadze. As she has told the journalists, Georgia has already done certain steps towards Russia, but they were not mentioned. For instance Georgia joined the CIS, though without big enthusiasm. Georgia received lot of promises for restoration of its territorial integrity and end of Abkhazian conflict, but none of them were fulfilled. Ratification of the framework agreement with Russia in 1995 was the next big step. However, Russian State Duma neither ratified, nor even held a committee hearing of the agreement.
“I would try to make my own contribution into the improvement of our relations. I hope that the meeting of the two Presidents will bring a new light to the wide range of the issues” – said Burjanadze.
Meeting of the heads of four Caucasus states is scheduled for November 30 in Moscow. It is expected that Shevardnadze and Putin will have bilateral negotiations during the summit.
By Giorgi Kalandadze, Civil Georgia