Nino Burjanadze: "We should sign a treaty on non-use of force with Abkhazia and South Ossetia"
The former Speaker of the Georgian parliament (2001-2008), Chairwoman of the party 'Democratic Movement - United Georgia', Nino Burjanadze, arrived in Moscow for consultations with "influential figures of the Russian political establishment." She told a correspondent of Vestnik Kavkaza about her vision of normalization of Russian-Georgian relations.
- Nino Anzorovna, what is happening in Russian-Georgian relations today? Is it stagnation, deadlock, or there is some progress, because the current government started a dialogue in the format Karasin-Abashidze and have achieved something. For example, the resumption of regular flights, the return of Georgian products to the Russian market and the release of Georgian citizens who were arrested on suspicion of espionage from Russian prisons.
- All of this is not so bad. But these issues do not concern and do not solve the main problems. It is necessary to speak about the main problems hindering the settlement of Russian-Georgian relations. Regular flights were resumed, we will sell a certain number of bottles of wine on the Russian market, but will it solve global problems?! I would not call everything that you have listed a breakthrough. This is absolutely not enough to improve relations.
- Before 2008 you were considered to be one of the most radical pro-Western politicians in Georgia. In many ways, the foreign policy pursued by Georgia was not only the policy of Saakashvili, but the policy of Saakashvili-Burjanadze. I mean, first of all, a categorical demand for the withdrawal of Russian troops, the appeal to NATO with a request for integration into the Euro-Atlantic alliance, your harsh statements towards Russia, including in St. Petersburg on the anniversary of the State Duma. If I remember correctly, after that speech, the speaker of the Russian lower house of parliament even cancelled a scheduled meeting with you. But after 2008 everything changed. Do you agree with the opinion that it was after the August war, when you tried to take a 'pro-Russian niche' in the Georgian political spectrum, and how has the 'five-day war' affected your choice?
- You will not find any of my speeches, even at the 100th anniversary of the State Duma, in which I did not note the importance of improving Russian-Georgian relations and a way out of the deadlock in which we found ourselves. As for that speech in St. Petersburg, recently I watched it once again. There was nothing inappropriate in that speech, even today. I can repeat the same words and phrases. My words about the need to abandon double standards seemed too harsh for my Russian colleagues. But I can repeat it even now. I still support the idea of Russian military bases being withdrawn from the territory of Georgia. I think that no military base of any foreign state should be located on the territory of our country. The goal of my policy is to free Georgia from a foreign military presence, unite the country. And I will work in this direction.
As for NATO membership, yes, I stood for Georgia's accession to the alliance. It would have been a blessing for Georgia then. Unfortunately, it did not happen. And in 2008 we completely lost the chance to become a NATO member without giving up our territories. It should be said very clearly: right now, Russian military bases are located on parts of the territory of Georgia (in Abkhazia and South Ossetia), and if the second part of the territory of Georgia will have NATO military bases it would mean the separation of Georgia, which totally contradicts the interests of our state. Maybe some countries or politicians do not care whether Georgia will be divided or not as long as their bases are not here, but for me it is important for Georgia to be a united, democratic state, not a country divided by bases of different countries. So there are no contradictions in my "general" statements and positions. But of course the views of a politician must change. How can views not change before and after war? If a politician doesn't change while the situation 'on the ground' is changing, he is not a politician. After 2008 the situation changed radically. And people should not be deceived. I appeal to our Western partners and, above all, to Georgian politicians, because our western partners are not deceiving us. Since no one says that we will be members of NATO. On the contrary! Mr. Obama spoke and said that membership of Georgia and Ukraine of NATO is not being considered. President Hollande said that Georgia will not be a NATO member. The Germans and British are saying in their speeches: "Yes, the doors of NATO are open in theory, but right now Georgia's membership is not really being considered." So do not deceive us.
- What is your project of settlement of relations with Russia? I'm sorry, Nino Anzorovna, but, as far as I know, you never spoke about this project specifically. For example, in your opinion, what concessions towards Russia should Georgia make? What compromises do you intend to offer Moscow?
- I do not think that any interview in the world can contain a plan to resolve the conflict in itself. I talked about what could become the basis of the resolution of these conflicts. It is, first of all, a direct dialogue with Abkhazia and Ossetia, with Abkhazians and Ossetians, in order to restore the bridges of trust between our peoples. It is a long process. Naturally, I've never said that after my coming to power these problems will be resolved in a year. Of course the Russian position will clearly play a decisive role in this matter. That is, we need to negotiate and engage in direct dialogue, just as with Russia. How, by what methods, due to what? The first thing that I can say is that it is certainly not at the cost of sovereignty and the national interests of our state. All other issues are a matter of agreement.
- And how do you see a dialogue with Abkhazia and South Ossetia – are you for the signing of a peace treaty, in other words, the agreement on non-use of force, just as Moscow, Sukhumi and Tskhinvali insist?
- I said that we need to sign this treaty from the beginning. At the time when I was in power. I told Saakashvili all the time that we need to sign an agreement. Of course, it should be precisely formulated, a search for specific formulations which are beneficial for Georgia. But this issue should be promoted. And we should not accept it blindly. In short, such a treaty is necessary, and it is necessary to talk about it not only in the Geneva format [consultations on security in the South Caucasus, which are held in Geneva since 2009 with the participation of Georgia, its former autonomies, Russia, the US, EU, UN and OSCE — VK] and, moreover, not in the Karasin-Abashidze format, but at the highest level. If agreements were reached at the highest level, in a certain sense it would be possible to find a compromise that would be beneficial to both Georgia and other parties.