Maurizia Jenkins

 The Elusive Right of Self Determination

Territorial Integrity of Georgia versus right of self-determination of the Abkhaz people is an unresolved dilemma, which, twenty years after the 1992-93 Georgian-Abkhaz war, Western countries and international organizations are still facing.

The contested borders of Georgia and the different histories, cultures and aspirations of the diverse ethnic groups living within them, are posing complex and sensitive questions, which far too often have been examined by Western eyes not on their own merits, but through the old prism of the containment of Russian power. While Georgian aggression over the years has been expediently overlooked, the Russian threat to well established geopolitical areas of influence seems to have been one of the overriding factors shaping US and EU policies in the South Caucasus. However, successful negotiations for the return of the IDPs to Abkhazia and a sound peace agreement between the Abkhaz and Georgian sides can be achieved only if both the West and the Georgian government change their approach.

Internal developments in post-Soviet Russia and Moscow’s response to political changes in the South Caucasus, may well be rightly viewed with concern by Georgia’s Western friends, but from an Abkhaz perspective, the support of its powerful neighbour has provided the sense of security and hope for a better future, which Georgia was unable to offer.

Over the last twenty years, while people living on Abkhaz territory have endured serious hardship, on-going, unconditional help has been provided by Western nations to the Georgian side. Moreover, the absence of a truly neutral and independent mediator and the economic and political blockade of Abkhazia have led to the hardening of Abkhaz positions and pushed meaningful negotiations out of reach.

So long as the Abkhaz authorities are excluded from participating on an equal footing in international discussions, where questions concerning their status and their future are on the agenda, in my view, there is very little chance of achieving a peace settlement, conducive to the safe return of the IDPs and stability in the South Caucasus.

Maurizia Jenkins
Independent Consultant, Former Political Officer of the United Nations Mission in Georgia. ITALY/UK

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