Economic Links To Abkhazia Restored
Published: March 11, 2008 (Issue # 1355)
TBILISI — Georgia decried Russia’s decision to restore economic and transport links to the breakaway Black Sea region of Abkhazia, which plans to ask Russia to recognize its independence, citing Kosovo as a precedent.
“This will be viewed as the economic annexation of Abkhazia, which is part of Georgia,” Temur Iakobashvili, Georgia’s minister for reintegration issues, said Thursday by telephone in the capital, Tbilisi.
“This once again proves that Russia has a political and economic stake in the peace talks.”
Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has accused Russia of backing separatist regimes in Abkhazia and another region, South Ossetia. Both regions broke away during wars in the 1990s and have pro-Russian leaderships and Russian peacekeepers. Saakashvili has pledged to bring them back under federal control. Most of their citizens hold Russian passports.
South Ossetia on Wednesday appealed to the United Nations, European and Russian leaders to recognize its independence, citing Kosovo. Abkhazia plans to ask Russia to recognize it as a sovereign state based on the same precedent, Abkhaz Foreign Ministry spokesman Irakli Tuzhba said yesterday.
Russia’s Foreign Ministry announced that the government would no longer honor a 1996 agreement on Abkhazia reached by the heads of the Commonwealth of Independent States that prohibited member governments from having economic relations and transport links with Abkhazia.
The goal was to pressure Abkhazia into allowing people displaced by the 1992-1993 war to return home, the ministry said in a statement on its web site.
Russia called on other CIS members to follow its lead and restore relations with Abkhazia.
First Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Denisov said removing the ban on economic ties to Abkhazia “isn’t in any way related to Kosovo” and doesn’t reflect a change in Russia’s “position on Georgia’s territorial integrity,” the Interfax news service reported.
Iakobashvili said the move was connected to Russia’s efforts to develop its Black Sea coast before it hosts the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, located a short distance from Abkhazia. “Sochi is one of their main concerns,” he said.
Gia Khukhashvili, head of the Association for Georgian Economic Security, said Russia will never recognize Abkhazia’s independence.
“Abkhazians can see a brighter future right next door, with job opportunities, while Georgia has nothing to offer,” he said.
“This is a clever business-related strategy, and it shows once again how ineffective Georgia’s conflict-resolution strategy really is.”