We must talk
26/12/2012 13:22
Experts' club

The topic of the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue has been so thoroughly discussed and has been in the dead end for so long that attempts to remove it from the stagnation seem pointless – until/as long as all the main political factors that caused the current status quo remain unchanged. Today, attempts to establish a dialogue at any level almost immediately come to face seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The positions and attitudes of the parties differ fundamentally - so much so that at times they resemble a conversation between a deaf and a blind. Often it is difficult to tell what is more there - unwillingness or inability to understand? This problem is reflected in a letter that came to the Club of Experts from certain Abkhazian D.B. who called himself our loyal reader since 2009 (there was not a request to conceal his name in the letter, but still we will act with caution.)

"Regarding practically all of your articles, I am ready to enter into a long argument with your authors - writes D.B. – after all your goal and purpose of the project is the following: "Being aware of the seriousness of the situation, the Club of Experts aims to make a contribution to the restoration of the territorial integrity of the country" ... I can say with a deep confidence that your work in no way contributes to the restoration of the Georgian-Abkhazian integrity. Particularly strange seems your message (invitation) to Abkhazian and Ossetian experts to collaborate ... Alas, your publications is too odious for any Abkhazian figure to agree to cooperate with you".

As D.B. writes, this remark should be understood "not as an act of "aggression” but as a wish." I would like to note its constructive tone and thank for courtesy - a rarity in these times. Unfortunately, however, it must be noted that such an approach rules out possibility of cooperation from the outset. It is interesting to know whether D.B. understands how odious - now in our opinion –seem articles of almost every Abkhazian representative? In any case, surely he can easily imagine how these people would react if they hear from the Georgian side: you guys are too odious to cooperate with you ... so one should not resort to double standards and set pre-conditions – experience shows that this is not the best way to start a dialogue.

Developments in Abkhazia are perceived and regarded by Abkhazians and Georgians in different ways. Mutual "odiousness" is the natural state of things, dictated by bloody conflict, settlement of which has seen no progress in the last 20 years. If we were not on radically different positions, then there would not have been any conflict after all. And if so the first thing to do is to be well aware of this fact and build on it. Indeed, the remark of our Abkhazian reader is nothing but a call ‘to give up positions” to some extent. In fact, he offers to make a concession in advance, to give up some of our perception of the problem of Abkhazia in favour of the other party, to become more comfortable opponents for the separatists. And what do we get in return? Maybe readiness to respond in similar manner? No, nothing like this, just a vague reference to hypothetical possibility of a dialogue. And this is the typical approach of Abkhazians to the question of relations with Georgians: either you start to adopt our position and start looking at the conflict with Abkhazian eyes - or we are not talking to you. Sorry, but this is childish.

Rather than searching for "flexible" partners for the dialogue, Abkhazians would better ask: what's the point in all this? What will it give in terms of conflict resolution? After all, they have conflict not with ready-to-compromise-people, but just with those "odious" ones. Like it or not, but if the Abkhazian side is interested in resolving the problem it will have to interact with those who are on the other side of the problem.

Georgians and Abkhazians have ample room for cooperation. There are lots of issues - humanitarian, trade, social - that can be addressed without touching the political aspects. This will be much more useful for Abkhazians rather than Georgians, and will help them to get close to resolution of "conflict" issues in time. Moreover, such cooperation would not be a new stage - all this has been and particularly actively developed in the first years of this century. Until certain organization with the three letter abbreviation decided that the intensity of the Georgian-Abkhazian relations reached "dangerous" levels, and began to break off contacts ...

Since then, the main problem is the lack of necessary conditions – existence of good will. What is the current attitude of the Abkhazian side to the dialogue with the Georgian side? We use characteristics of the Sukhumi-based journalist Anton Krivenyuk "Sukhum is not interested in diplomatic victories or defeats, it is not developing strategies and tactics in its relations with Tbilisi, it does not see any prospects and benefits of dialogue with Georgia and just wants to be left alone ... They (Sukhumi) do not know how to play, and do not want to participate in games that Georgians want to play with them. And to do the justice to the Abkhazian leadership they are honest and not hypocritical. And what's more important – ignorance where Abkhazia sent Georgians is a common mass position held by the Abkhazian society in relation to Georgia.”

How reasonable is this position? Indeed, hiding behind Russia, Abkhazia can easily ignore Georgians. After all, it's comfortable - this position does not require any effort, any activity, and is quite clear from a psychological point of view. But all supporters of this approach must remember that nothing is constant - on the contrary, the current era is characterized by rapid and unexpected changes of the geopolitical map. If today one can feel safe, who is insured against uncertain tomorrow? What if Russia plunges into turmoil, and the Russian troops have no time to protect Abkhazia ... Maybe between Moscow and Tbilisi, or at the more global level, an agreement is reached in which there will be no place for guarantees for Sukhumi ... There can be different versions, but one thing is certain - sooner or later, the current status quo will be destroyed. We must think of the future. After the experience of 1992-1993, we already know to what the lack of honest dialogue and ability to compromise can lead.

In 2002, HBO released a film "Live from Baghdad”. In this film, that should be seen at least once by every reporter, there is an episode when CNN producer Robert Wiener urges Iraqi Information Minister Naji al-Hadithi arrange an interview with Saddam Hussein. The words of American journalist could not be more suited to the situation that has developed between the Georgians and Abkhazians. The journalist urged to look what was at stake, that people would die, and he knew how exactly it would happen! That they would perish, once the dialogue ceased. He said that they must continue to talk, even if they had to talk to their old age. As he said as soon as they stopped talking they would perish. The journalist said that perhaps he would never understand the other side. Perhaps they would never understand each other. But as long as the dialogue continued they were alive.

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