Georgian-Ossetian meeting in Yerevan
Grigory Kalatozishvili, Tbilisi. Exclusively to Vestnik Kavkaza
Recently an official meeting between experts and representatives of non-governmental organizations took place in Yerevan within the dialogue “A Point of View.” Non-governmental organizations which were represented by the delegation from South Ossetia stated that their participation in the dialogue is “private.” Official authorities of South Ossetia expressed their negative view on the meeting and stated that it wouldn’t reflect official Tskhenval’s opinion. The Georgian side didn’t make such statement either.
In fact any dialogue of experts after the tragedy of August 2008 enables us to imagine the gap between two societies, at least. And the meeting of civil society’s representatives is even more effective than political talks, as social activists, experts, and civil activists are not obliged to hide their true views or opinions which are popular among population.
The topics of the meeting were numerous: from the geopolitical context of the situation over the republic recognized by Russia to trade-and-economy cooperation and the notorious Ergnetski market on the border between Georgia and South Ossetia. The materials of the meeting confirm that civil society in Georgia, at least its representatives who spoke in Yerevan, is ready to reconsider significant principles of the official conception of “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Primarily, it is readiness to a direct dialogue between Tbilisi and Tskhinval within cooperation with Moscow. The state minister on reintegration of Georgia, Paata Zakareishvili, suggests recognition of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as “sides of the conflict”, if not full participants of the process. However, it is still dim because the team of Premier Ivanishvili is afraid of accusations of “receding from the positions” and rejections of the concept of “occupation.”
It doesn’t matter whether the concept is productive or not, but it is clear and reasonable, from the point of view of Georgian-Western relations. According to Saakashvili’s team, if the problem of South Ossetia and Abkhazia will be considered by the West not through a paradigm “great post-imperial Russia and small Georgia which strives for independence”, but in the context of relations between the Georgian state and one of ethnic minorities, the attitude to the problem by Western capitals can change. And not in favor of Georgia. That is why the idea proposed by representatives of Georgian non-governmental organizations on a direct dialogue with Tskhinaval under cooperation with Russia could be implemented only if Tbilisi dramatically changes its foreign political course.
However, the thesis on a differentiated approach to Abkhazia and South Ossetia by Tbilisi is very interesting. It is true that the conflicts have their own specific peculiarities. But the idea of differentiation cannot be implemented without rejection of the “occupation” concept which requires one-sided attitude to the situation over the former autonomies of Georgia.
It was suggested to restore trust and eliminate perception of Georgia as an enemy in the Ossetian society. However, “systematizing of democratic institutes at the political level and establishing the notion of “civil nation” at the social level” are not enough for this. The August events have taken place too recently to believe that the emotional background doesn’t influence rational understanding of certain interests.
The Caucasus issues expert Georgy Gvimradze voiced a “seditious” idea for the Georgian society that territorial integrity is not the primary goal, but a resource. But this sound though will hardly find support in the modern Georgian society which undergoes “an identity trauma” because of losing Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
It is surprising that even in the “simple” issues of transport communications and people’s free traveling the sides have no mutual understanding. Georgian social activists interpret it as free traveling all over Georgia, while their Ossetian colleagues mean getting Shengen visas.
Numerous conflict interests and contradictions were discussed intensively. Despite the difficulty of settlement of the problem, both sides admitted that this knot couldn’t be cut at one stroke.