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Summer Academy
  ,,Frozen“ conflicts: decisions possible only via dialogue

Auđra Radzevičiűtë
2007 08 16

What is happening today between Moldova and Trans-Dniester, between Georgia, Abkhazia and Sothern Ossetia? Is it possible to regulate conflicts „frozen“ by the post-soviet space peacefully, to co-ordinate the interests of conflicting parties and make a decision appropriate for all?

This and other issues have been analyzed in Dubingiai on 24-28 July by the representatives of Poland, Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Trans-Dniester region, Georgia, Abkhazia and Sothern Ossetia – political analysts, politicians, diplomats, conflictologists, members of public and civil organizations and youth. The first public initiative Project of the above format in Lithuania – the Summer Academy – has not only helped to hear the information from the „first lips“, but also to search for answers to difficult questions as well as the ways for solving various problems.

Representatives of Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia and Sothern Ossetia tried to convince participants of the Summer Academy that they are seek total sovereignty and independence and do not agree with any proposals of „wide autonomy“. According to Maxim Gvindzia, vice minister of foreign affairs of Abkhazia, his country, which has become a part of the Georgian SSR - autonomy against its will, actually has never had the rights of actual autonomy guaranteed by the laws. Discrediting of the status is one of the reasons providing for distrust of the promises of the official Tbilisi that while remaining within the framework of Georgia under conditions of „wide autonomy“ Abkhazia could loose only the right of representation on the international stage. According to M.Gvindzia, before 1997, the negotiating position of Abkhazia was a federal state, however, Georgia was categorically against that. „Today Sukhumi’s position is a sovereign and independent state. The statement that Abkhazia wants to join Russia, is destructive and not matches the reality“, said vice minister of foreign affairs of Abkhazia.

„Abkhazia executes unilateral policy of open neighborhood, and the European Union does not have any policy in terms of non-recognized countries at all. For Europe it is simply more convenient to say that Abkhazia is a country of criminals, that it is dark, dangerous and drug oriented“, said vice minister of foreign affairs of Abkhazia M.Gvindzia.

In his turn the ambassador of Georgia David Apciauri said to the participants of the Summer Academy, that „frozen“ conflicts must be solved only via dialogue, although at first sight positions of the parties might seem incompatible. It is also very important to search for and find new ways for problem solving, to refer to the single value system and avoid stereotypes. „We are interested in well being  of the Georgian neighbors and we want the nations to be friendly“, said the ambassador.

According to some experts, solution of „frozen“ conflicts in the post-soviet space is hindered by the collision of the two key principles of the international law: the right of the nation to decide and the principle of permanence of borders (according to the UN Statute and other international documents, borders between the countries can be changed only subject to mutual agreement). However, processes could be influenced by a precedent, and Kosovo is trying to become one. Will Russia, which is firmly against the statehood of Kosovo, recognize Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia and Sothern Ossetia?  Does Moscow seek „freezing“ of the „frozen“ conflicts“? What is its role in these conflicts and what are the goals of the big neighbor – Russia?

According to Shamil Adzinba, vice chairman of the State Youth and Sports Committee, Sukhumi was pushed to the arms of Russia by complexity of the situation: today the majority of Abkhaz people are citizens of Russia and take all possible advantages and support from the relationship with Georgia.  Sh.Adzinga said that after the military conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia in 1992 which lasted a year and two months, and after all those tragic events and humiliation practically it is impossible even to imagine that Abkhaz people could agree to become citizens of Georgia. However, he admitted that the young generation can be more tolerant.  Boris Tumanov, a journalist of the Russian journal „The New Time“, opposing to representatives of Abkhazia, said that Russia humiliates the Abkhaz nation more than the Georgians and that Russia does not want these nations to clarify their relationship between themselves.

Representative of Georgia prof. Dr. Georg Chucishvili, director of the Centre for International Negotiations and Conflicts, said that conflicting parties cannot do without negotiators, and suggested to follow the principles applied in the international practice, i.e. establishment of conditions for negotiations and non-intervention; international arbitration etc. However, who could be reliable negotiators and arbitrators?  – This is a new subject for discussions.

Kćstutis Krikđčiűnas, deputy minister of defense of the Republic of Lithuania raised the question of reliability of self-determination of separatist regions. Sometimes it looks like the nomenclature in the conflicting regions acts under the cover of ordinary citizens, and by their declared separatism ideas simply wants to retain the privileges.  According to K.Krikđčiűnas, such a situation has occurred after restoration of the Lithuanian independence in Vilnius region, where communist party activists and heads of collective farms started to escalate the issue of autonomy or even separation.

Robert Rokicky, the 2nd secretary of the Polish embassy in Lithuania said that conflicts in Trans-Dniester, Abkhazia or Sothern Ossetia take place not without the help of „our big brothers“.  „In Lithuania the efforts on autonomy of Vilnius region fell flat, since local actors did not have any support from Warsaw. Poland firmly refused to support the supporters of autonomy and to divide Lithuania“, said the Polish diplomat to the participants of the SummerAcademy.  According to R.Rokicky, the interest of the entire EU and especially of the new Member States is to expand „the space of freedom“ towards the East so as to provide an opportunity for people to chose, and create conditions for the development of democracy and civil society.

Professor Vytautas Landsbergis, a member of the European Parliament, said that in terms of the role of the third parties in considering the „frozen“ conflicts, it is of vital importance to put everything into the right places and answer the question on whether the second parties exist in the above conflicts at all. In terms of Caucasus, everything is very complicated: it is not clear who is in conflict with whom and who is the negotiator. Russia has already become there a participant of the conflict“, said V.Landsbergis and highlighted that recently Moscow has been especially demonstrating its military power.

After participation in working groups, participants and experts of the Summer Academy could not come to a compromise on how to bring Georgia and Abkhazia together in the nearest possible time.  The only consensus is that both parties need time, that they have to evaluate the current situation and possible consequences. However, professor Aleksy Haran from Kiev Mohyla University warned that time is not always the best thing regarding „frozen“ conflicts, since people gradually accept the current situation, the new generation is growing in the environment not promising anything alternative, and consequently the motive to make cardinal changes might be lost.

Another „frozen“ conflict in the post-soviet space is between Moldova and Trans-Dniester. Cornel Ciurea, a lecturer of the Institute of Political Studies and International Relations of Moldova and director of „Democratia Weekly“ said that it is necessary to specify reasons of the conflict and try to understand them. An institute established in Moldova seven years ago elaborated a strategy under the title 3D: demilitarization, decriminalization and democratization. According to C.Ciurea, there are several reasons of the conflict between Moldova and Trans-Dniester, however none of them fully reflects the situation.

„The ethnical motive in Trans-Dniester, differently to that in Caucasus, is not determining, since the number of the Russians, Moldavians and Ukrainians is nearly equal. Geopolitical moment is that conflict will be solved subject to agreement with Russia. There are also economic reasons of the conflict: in Trans-Dniester there is a clash of interests of various influential groupings earning from this situation millions of dollars“, said C.Ciurea. According to him, one of the ways for solving the Trans-Dniester problem is giving the quota in the Moldovan Parliament for representatives of this event, guarantees on participation in the activity of the Government and the status of wide autonomy. President Vladimir Voronin also agrees with the above scenario, however, opposition is against it.

Referring to Viktor Guzin, a deputy of Trans-Dniester Supreme Council, the reason of the ongoing conflict between Moldova and Trans-Dniester is military encounter after the fall of the USSR. This has strengthened the role of Russia, i.e. the interference of division No 14 dislocated in Trans-Dniester. According to V.Guzun, it terminated bloodshed and destruction of Trans-Dniester.

According to Bonifacijs Daukshts, an advisor to the Latvian embassy in Lithuania for policy, when solving the „frozen“ conflict“ in Trans-Dniester it is necessary to internationalize the mission of peacemakers without expelling Russia, the role of which will still be important. “I hope that „frozen“ conflicts will gradually turn into problems and eventually – into issues.  We want to see Europe without conflicts“, said the Latvian diplomat to the participants of the Summer Academy.

Thus, which road should Moldova and Trans-Dniester take? According to the Working Group, there are two possible options: Trans-Dniester autonomy or confederation of countries. The key steps should be: transitional period, reforms, internationalization of military mission of peacemakers and, finally, referendum. Without any doubt, it is quite possible, that current situation might not change for a long time.

Despite contradictory positions and certain radical statements, participants of the Summer Academy managed to discuss constructively and seek compromise. At the end of the event professor Vytautas Landsbergis urged everyone to write letters – if not physically, then in the minds. „I am sure that you will not use unpleasant words in the letters. Relationship between the people helps to solve any conflicts. This Summer Academy showed that actually future depends on active young people“, said in conclusion professor.

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