No separatism behind Adzhar crisis: Georgia’s FM says

RIA Novosti, Russia
May 6 2004


MOSCOW, May 6 (RIA Novosti) – There was no separatist undercurrent to
the Adzhar crisis-it was a clash between democratic and
non-democratic forces, said Salome Zurabishvili, Georgia’s Foreign
Minister, as she was commenting stormy developments in the autonomy
to a Moscow news conference.

“Democracy has won with democratic methods,” she summed up the

Updated Georgia is recurring to peaceful democratic means to settle
its problems. The rulers of Abkhazia and South
Ossetia-self-proclaimed republics in Georgia – may find that of major
interest, she assumes.

Georgia is willing to re-appraise the Abkhaz situation with
settlement prospects, added the minister.

“Georgia’s new leaders are self-reliant. That does not mean that they
are aggressive. We are taking a more pragmatic view of things than
before,” she reassured.

Miss Zurabishvili thanked Georgia’s partners in Europe and the USA
for promoting Adzhar settlement: “They helped us to get a dialogue
going. When the dialogue exhausted its opportunities, and the
situation demanded democratic progress, our partners offered us
support.” A reporter asked her what was to become of Aslan Abashidze,
recent Adzhar president. He will not be harassed and persecuted,
reassured the minister. Same about his family. Georgia’s President
Mikhail Saakashvili has pledged it.

“Russia has shifted the burden on its own shoulders. Thank you,” said
Salome Zurabishvili.

“Georgia has not entitled us to chase him,” Sergei Lavrov, Russia’s
Foreign Minister, retorted to that.

Reconciliation is the core of current Georgian policies. It concerns
all-whether they cherish the memory of President Zurab Gamsakhurdia
or side with ex-President Aslan Abashidze, stressed Salome

She highly appreciated Igor Ivanov’s visit to Batumi, Adzhar capital,
as extremely important and endowed with a symbolism. Igor Ivanov,
preceding Foreign Minister, is now Russia’s federal Security Council

“The Adzhar situation would have been settled in whatever case-the
people determined that it would be so. But Mr. Ivanov arrived in an
important symbolical move. Russia was proffering us a helping hand at
the last instant. Mutual confidence is being established, which is
necessary for our relations to take the right road. Now, we no longer
have any difficulties trying to understand each other.” Lengthy local
conflicts are spoking the wheels of Caucasian progress, the minister
went on.

“What we refer to as ‘frozen conflicts’ are actually freezing our
development-I mean Georgia, Abkhazia and the entire region. We must
realise the point, and Georgia has realised it.” The same pertains to
Karabakh, over which another two Transcaucasian countries-Armenia and
Azerbaijan-have been clashing for many years now.

The whole world is making progress. Whether the Caucasian nations are
to join it depends on the settlement of those and similar conflicts.

The Commonwealth of Independent States is among Georgia’s foreign
political priorities.

“The CIS is prominent in Georgian policies, with an emphasis on
Armenia, Ukraine and the post-Soviet Central Asia.” Georgia greatly
values its partnership with CIS countries, and will carry it on,
reassured the minister.

Her country is determined to combine its partnership with NATO with
Russo-Georgian cooperation. Georgia’s road to Europe, and to
partnership with NATO, does not rule out close neighbourly contacts
with Russia-the two trends can go together.

“The time of a choice from among the principal players is past. There
was a time when Georgia was gambling on antagonisms. It gained
nothing,” Salome Zurabishvili emphatically remarked.