Marchers for peace endure rhetorical crossfire

Marchers for peace endure rhetorical crossfire
By Keti Sikharulidze

The Messenger, Georgia
29 Oct. 2004

A 7,000 kilometer international march for peace titled “Caucasus
Without Hotspots” began in Moscow on September 19 and passed through
Tbilisi on October 27.

Having been blocked from separatist Abkhazia, the group nonetheless
hopes to travel to breakaway South Ossetia and other current hotspots
in the Caucasus before eventually returning back to the Russian

The marchers’ next stop is Tskhinvali. At a press conference on
Wednesday, they said they had had negotiations with the separatist
capital and that they are not against their traveling there but “they
are afraid that there may be provocations from the Georgian side.”

However, representative of the Ministry of Conflict Resolution
Levan Geradze said the situation was quite the opposite – that the
Georgian side is not against the marchers’ going to South Ossetia “but
we cannot give any guarantees that they would arrive there safely,
because unfortunately it is not controlled by the Georgian side. They
should ask for security guarantees from the Ossetian side, not the
Georgian,” Geradze told The Messenger.

The marchers include representatives of forty diasporas of Caucasus
people living in Russia and other CIS countries as well as veterans
of the Second World War.

As part of their effort, they intend to hold a “world congress of
Caucasus people” on May 9 next year, which will be the 60th anniversary
of the end of the Second World War in Europe, in the hope that this
will help resolve the various conflicts within the Caucasus.

The route of the march takes the participants through such
Caucasus conflict zones as Chechnya, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and
Nagorno-Karabakh, as well as the three South Caucasus capitals of Baku,
Yerevan and Tbilisi.

Head of the march Vladimir Vakhania told The Messenger that the main
aim of the march is to tell the governments of Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Georgia and Russia to stop the bloody wars in the Caucasus region.

“We are marching these kilometers to play our part in the resolution of
conflicts in the Caucasus,” Vakhania said. “We are trying to explain
to all the people of the Caucasus that war is the worst thing that
may happen between neighboring nations. The only thing we have to
fight is separatism, extremism and terrorism.”

“We want to call for negotiations between the leaders of Georgia,
Armenia, Azerbaijan and Russia to solve the ethnic conflicts through
peaceful ways. It is very difficult to express the feelings of these
nations but I can assure you nobody wants war. Everyone is for the
peaceful settlements of all conflicts,” stated Vakhania.

Vakhania also stated that the organizers planned to reach Tbilisi
after 15 days, but that it had taken 37 days as they were unable to
cross the Russian-Abkhaz border at the river Psou. “We wanted to hold
a press conference there too, but unfortunately after negotiations
with Abkhaz officials we could not.”

After the problems in Abkhazia the members of the peace march went
to the recently reopened Russian-Georgian border crossing at Larsi
and after negotiations with Georgian and Russian officials were able
to cross into Georgia.