Discussion on the Foundation of Georgian-Abkhazian Settlement

Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93.

Lasha Zukhba, a veteran of the Georgian-Abkhazian War of 1992-93.

Ekho Kavkaza ― On Friday, the "Ekho Kavkaza (Echo of the Caucasus)" introduced its readers to the Abkhazian community's reaction to the recent turbulent events in Tbilisi, highlighting a statement from the pro-government "Amtsakhara" party. The party expressed outrage over a controversial Facebook post by opposition figure Lasha Zukhba, who declared his solidarity with the Georgian protesters opposing the "foreign agents" law. Since "Amtsakhara" had essentially echoed Zukhba’s brief post in their statement, we opted not to repeat it to avoid redundancy.

Nevertheless, it was apparent that "Amtsakhara’s" swift reaction marked only the beginning of a surge of activity across Abkhazia’s political landscape and social media. Before delving into the various responses, let’s consider the complete text of his post:

"On behalf of myself and like-minded individuals, I extend solidarity to the protesters in Tbilisi, the Georgian opposition, and all of Georgian civil society in their protest against the foreign influence law. We remember your support for our protest against the Pitsunda agreement, and the fight against the foreign agents law is still ahead of us. I hope your efforts will not be in vain and that the law will not be passed. I am confident that no nation, especially the Georgian people, can be defeated in their resolve. I wish you strength of spirit and success in achieving your goals," he wrote on social media.

Here are some puzzled reactions from Abkhazian users:

  • "Georgia indeed supported the protests in Abkhazia against the Pitsunda agreement, yet they still referred to it as Bichvinta and an integral part of Georgia. It seems Lasha is comfortable with this. Or didn’t he delve deeper?"

  • "It is appalling to wish success to the Georgian opposition, which advocates for a second front and chants 'Abkhazeti – Sakartvelo.'"

  • "Does he truly believe that those currently assailing the Georgian parliament and those who, following Georgia's football victory over Greece, suddenly began chanting that 'Abkhazia is Georgia', are different groups? He is mistaken; they are the same."

In light of recent political statements, some observers have drawn parallels to another scandal nearly four years ago. In August 2020, Lasha Sakania, then an advisor to the President of Abkhazia, orchestrated a covert visit of leaders from the "Alliance of Patriots of Georgia" to Abkhazia, where they presented a large, newly-made icon to a church in the village of Ilor. This action, universally condemned across Abkhazian society regardless of political affiliation, led to Sakania's dismissal from his advisory role.

This time around, the debate over the contentious post was minimal, but the opposition, always an active participant in domestic political discussions, predictably sought to take control and steer the conversation in a new direction.

The "Aamta" expert fund issued a statement:

"We do not know which of L[asha].A. Zukhba's like-minded peers shares his views or for what reasons he is grateful to those considered enemies of the Abkhaz people. These are his personal views, and he will likely offer an explanation. It is reassuring to see the 'Amtsakhara' party awaken from its political dormancy, monitor the digital space, and promptly respond to Lasha Zukhba’s post, a veteran of the Abkhazian Patriotic War of 1992-1993, on social media. In evaluating the veteran's actions, 'Amtsakhara' seems to have overlooked a series of perilous and harmful events, particularly those directly associated with the current president, whom 'Amtsakhara' inexplicably honours as a veteran of the 1992-1993 conflict, Aslan Bzhania."

In this statement, the fund also reminds its adversaries of the incidents that have brought opposition criticism towards President Bzhania, arguing that if 'Amtsakhara' had publicly addressed any of these issues in the past four years, "today we might genuinely believe in the sincerity of their intentions and the righteousness of their indignation."

To explore this topic further, 'Apsnyhabar' invited Lasha Zukhba for an in-depth discussion in their studio. You can watch the interview below.

Similarly, the statement from the Supreme Council of the veteran organisation "Aruaa" mirrors this sentiment. Here is their statement in the words of its authors:

"The Public Organisation 'Aruaa' does not endorse the public statement (internet publication) made by L[asha]. Zukhba concerning the ongoing events in Georgia. These events are internal affairs of a nation that is hostile to us and should not impact our society. Nonetheless, we are surprised by the 'Amtsakhara' party’s request for a moral evaluation of L. Zukhba’s remarks. It begs the question: what aspect of morality are they referring to? Instances such as the covert visit by the Abkhazian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Economy, K[ristina].K. Ozgan, to Georgia, the cancellation of a presidential decree, and the allowance of unfettered trade with Georgia for a year without customs checks are notable. The Republic of Abkhazia has unilaterally opened its customs borders to Georgian goods, enhancing the budget of a hostile nation. 'Amtsakhara' overlooked these issues and failed to call for a moral appraisal, not even for past actions like issuing Abkhazian national passports to Georgian citizens residing in the Gal District or the unassessed visits by Georgian parliamentarians to the Ilor Temple in the Ochamchira District. We deeply respect L. Zukhba, a veteran of the 1992-1993 Abkhazian Patriotic War, for his valour and remind 'Amtsakhara' of his active support for the current authorities, notably during President A[aslan]. Bzhania’s 2020 election campaign. In conclusion, we insist that 'Amtsakhara' firstly address these actions of the ruling authorities with a moral judgement."

These discussions are part of a broader dialogue within the online community, which, although not directly related to the post that stirred the Abkhazian society, attempts to critically analyse and compare the ongoing processes in the South Caucasus related to the proposed foreign agents laws. Here is the commentary by Akhra Bzhania, an oppositional public-political figure and blogger:

"No free society would tolerate the enactment of the 'Foreign Agents Law' in the form currently being advanced in Georgia and Abkhazia. Firstly, it would enable the government to arbitrarily interpret the activities of organisations and public activists as undesirable, without the need for judicial decisions. Secondly, it restricts constitutional rights and freedoms, including the right to work, free will, and the freedom to organise public events. Thirdly, due to its overtly authoritarian and isolationist orientation, it significantly narrows the spectrum of international relations for any state adopting this law. In other words, if your plans involve developing your country based on the active and creative potential of its citizens, curbing the government's powers, and remaining open and friendly to the wider world, this law would hinder those plans.

However, in our specific case, there is an additional nuance. Interpreted by the Georgian opposition as intended to stifle resistance to Russian-Georgian geopolitical convergence, the adoption of the 'Foreign Agents Law' by the Parliament in Tbilisi could significantly shape new realities in the South Caucasus. These new realities might see the economic and regional partnership between Russia and Georgia overshadowing the notion of European integration for our neighbours. And then, who knows what compromises might be reached and who might be the subject of these compromises. Abkhazia? It cannot be ruled out. At least, the Georgian side will certainly insist on this, and some Russian experts do not conceal the likelihood and justification for such a scenario. Paradoxically, things were relatively stable under the "anti-Russian" leadership of Saakashvili, but now, under the "pro-Russian" government of Ivanishvili, especially if the aforementioned law is passed, the situation is likely to become much more complicated!

But the strangeness of the situation does not end there. If there is a chance, albeit a distant one, for an Abkhazian-Georgian settlement, such a process will only be possible with the mutual recognition of certain basic values. Your freedom of choice can only be respected by someone who values their own freedom of choice! In this context, the Georgian Dream with its aspirations to limit the rights and freedoms of its citizens may not be the most promising negotiator when it comes to the free choice of the people of Abkhazia. The Abkhazians have repeatedly demonstrated their valuation of freedom by resisting the suicidal initiatives of the current government. Two years of protests in Sukhum have effectively paralysed the enactment of odious laws on 'apartments', 'foreign agents', defamation, and more.

Now, the ball is over the Ingur River... Can Georgian society defend its civil liberties and will this serve as a fragile yet vital foundation for a future Abkhazian-Georgian settlement? We shall see."

This article was published by Ekho Kavkaza and is translated from Russian.




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