Georgia-Iran: There are more questions than answers (part II)
18/06/2010 11:50
Simon Kiladze

(The end. See part I)

Of course, we should hereby say that the issue of Fereydan is very sensitive and it should be treated with care. "Many Georgian journalists write about this issue without taking into account specifics of Fereydan and Iran. Unsuitable terms are used; unimaginable "sensations" are made. It is necessary to consider rules and norms existing in Iran. And indeed in reality there is no "Georgian problem" of state importance in the Islamic Republic of Iran. And all this despite the fact that every resident of Fereydan emotionally displays pro-Georgian feelings and is proud of its descent. There are many examples that prove that Fereydan Georgians are great patriots of both Iran and Georgia. Their feeling of statehood and citizenship will never interfere with their love for Georgia. On the contrary, we can say that they are a connecting bridge for deepening of friendly relations between two countries" – these words were said by former ambassador of Georgia to Iran Jamshid Giunashvili in an interview with one of the newspapers several years ago. Views of famous Georgian diplomat and scholar of eastern world is acute and worth of paying attention even today.

"Abkhazian mini-vector" of Iranian foreign policy

It was mainly after-Russia war in August 2008 that Iran started to be actively interested in Georgian –Abkhazian conflict, in Abkhazia ("South Ossetia"), to be precise. When Russia recognized independence of breakaway regions of Georgia, Russian and Armenian experts and political scientists expressed their views that Iran, as a strategic partner of Russia, would probably recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia soon. It must be said that at the time this view was shared by many scholars of international diplomacy. All the more that grounds to suppose this was given by closed-door meetings between Dmitry Medvedev and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad that happened in Dushanbe during the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization and information about their negotiations that leaked into the press.

Against the background of such speculations things were fueled by a statement that Iranian president made from a high tribune of the UN in September 2008 in support of Russia. According to him Abkhazian and Ossetian people became victims of a provocation of NATO and some of the western countries. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad tried to persuade members of the UN that Georgia had fallen victim of the military agreement of the west. If he is to be believed Russia was not to be blamed for dramatic events of August 2008 and Moscow was completely innocent.

Though it must be said for Iran that official Tehran applied diplomatic brakes and did not go beyond verbal support of Russia. Time passed and there was not word about recognition of Abkhazian and South Ossetian independence from Iran. It seems that in this case Georgia's efforts played a certain role. We can suppose that at that time there was intense, although unnoticeable for the outside eye diplomatic correspondence between Tehran and Tbilisi.

By the beginning of 2009 the situation seemed the following. Iran did not want to offend Russia and practically justified August aggression of Russia. But neither did they burn bridges with Georgia and did not recognize independence of Abkhazia and "South Ossetia". This was what was voiced in Moscow by Iranian ambassador: "in the near future Tehran does not intend to recognize breakaway regions of Georgia".

But then one cannot understand eastern diplomacy... It is possible that Tehran thought to please Moscow and establish if not political, at least economic contacts and in July 2009 an Iranian delegation visited Abkhazia on a four-day visit. At that time this visit was not much publicized. And in order to avoid board attention to the visit of Iranians meetings were closed, without presence of journalists. It should be noted that the delegation arrived to Sukhumi from Moscow and presumably without first consulting Georgia.

Abkhazian separatists continue their contacts with Iranian representatives in Moscow as well. During negotiations issues discussed mainly concerned economic sphere. Supposedly that was what Sergei Bagapsh meant when later in December he talked about relations with Iran: "we have intensive contacts with representatives of Iran. They visited us in Sukhumi and we had meetings in Moscow with them as well. Iran is ready to participate in economic processes in Abkhazia".

Futile dreams of separatists

At the time there was an impression that relations of Iran with Sukhumi separatists would have been like the model of Turkish-Abkhazian contacts which implies economic cooperation without political recognition. There was a suggestion that in the face of Iran Abkhazia would have acquired quite significant investor. But there is one "but". Almost six months have passed since the statements of Bagapsh and yet there are no new developments in the relations between Iran and Abkhazian separatists. At this stage concrete reasons for this situation are yet unknown but we can suppose that we should look for a reason in Moscow. If we take into account that relations between Russia and Iran significantly "cooled down" (Russia has to support anti-Iran sanction of the UN with regards to nuclear program) Tehran probably decided to stop/ suspend development of relations with the separatists and shifted accents towards deepening of relations with Georgia.

Therefore we can suppose that at this stage Abkhazian mini-vector of Iranian foreign policy lost its importance and it was completely "swallowed" by Georgian-Iranian relations. If this is indeed so then such situation has created good pre-conditions for Georgia to independently broaden its relations with Tehran to promote its own interests and even without consulting Washington.

World politics is a changeable and inconsistent thing. Centuries-old experience of International relations confirms that today's fiend tomorrow can become an enemy and vice versa. "The furtherance of British interests should be the only object of a British Foreign Secretary" and "that Britain had no permanent friends or permanent enemies" – these wise words of the XIX century British diplomat, Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary Lord Palmerston absolutely corresponds to today's situation of Georgia.

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