Abkhazia, South Ossetia Formally Declared Occupied Territory
The Georgian parliament unanimously passed a resolution on August 28 formally declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia Russian-occupied territories, and calling Russian troops, occupying forces.
MP Lasha Zhvania, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for foreign affairs, who is a co-author of the resolution, explained that only South Ossetia and Abkhazia had been defined as "occupied territories" – and not other areas deep inside Georgia still under Russian miltary control – because the two separatist regions have been formally recognized as independent by Russia.
The resolution instructs the Georgian government to annul all treaties based on which Russian peacekeeping forces have been deployed in the South Ossetian and Abkhaz conflict zones over the past decade. There are two basic agreements: one in respect of Abkhazia – the 1994 Moscow agreement on ceasefire and separation of forces - and another relating to South Ossetia – the 1992 Dagomis Agreement (also known as the Sochi Agreement).
The resolution, which is non-binding, also instructs "the executive government to cut diplomatic relations with the Russian Federation." MP Zhvania explained to lawmakers that in accordance with international convention, a state that cuts diplomatic relations can have a third country represent its interests in the affected country – in Georgia's case, Russia.
The Georgian Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on August 27 that it was "minimizing" – and not cutting – diplomatic ties with Russia. The move involved the withdrawal of all Georgian diplomats from the Georgian embassy in Moscow, except for two – the acting ambassador and an advisor.
The Foreign Ministry said that a "minimum" diplomatic presence in Moscow was needed to serve hundreds of thousands of ethnic Georgians living in the Russian Federation.
In an interview with Reuters on August 27, President Saakashvili downplayed the matter, saying "these are just details."
"I would not focus too much on procedural aspects in our bilateral relations right now," Saakashvili said, adding that Russia’s actions in Georgia were already "beyond bilateral relations."
Parliament’s resolution also declares "all armed units on the territory of Georgia, except for those envisaged by the Georgian legislature, as illegal armed forces." Here the reference is made to Abkhaz and South Ossetian militias.
The resolution also says that Georgia "remains the party" into the ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
The resolution also instructs the General Prosecutor’s Office to investigate cases of ethnic cleansing carried out in areas occupied by the Russian Federation.
"Today Russia is ruled by former Soviet security service agents," an influential lawmaker from the ruling party, Nika Rurua, told the parliamentary session just before the vote. "They consider the end of the Cold War as their defeat. Russia’s occupation is a result of this criminal mentality. Today’s resolution gives not only a political, but also a legal assessment to this aggression by Russia. We are not alone in this struggle; the entire free world states unanimously that if Russia does not stop its outrageous actions, it will lead to the total disintegration of Russia itself."
Another MP from the ruling party, Giorgi Gabashvili, said that the Russian president’s decree recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia’s independence was "just a blank piece of paper."
"Now our goal, together with the international community, is to expel these occupiers from Georgian territories," he said.
[Source: Civil Georgia, Tbilisi, 28Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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