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Kouchner upsets Mishiko16.07.2010 | 18:30
It has been almost two years since Georgia voluntarily broke diplomatic relationship with Russia. People in the two countries understand that Saakashvili's decision is wrong: the centuries-long cultural and social connections cannot be broken in an instant and sooner or later the relations will be mended. However, it is notable that since August 2008, the need for a dialogue between Saakashvili's regime and Russian authorities has been stressed by the West for the first time.
Being on a visit in Georgia, head of the French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner has called upon Sakartvelo to start coming together with Russia. Will the governors of the republic listen to his appeals?
"Georgia President Mikhail Saakashvili has got a chance to start a dialogue, - Kouchner stated. - As to using the word "occupation", which Tbilisi insists upon, the permanent use of this word will not settle the problem".
I believe the French minister's statement became a revelation for many Georgians, Russians, Abkhazians and Ossetians. Georgian authorities seem to be discouraged more than the others: Saakashvili's residents have been putting so much hope on the West's recognition of the word occupation, proudly describing the foreign guests' visits as the proof of their support.
Kouchner's words seem to point at the fact that France and, perhaps, other European countries, are close to reconsidering its view of the modern South Caucasus and that France is again ready to act as a mediator in the complicated Russian-Georgian relationship.
So far, Abkhazia and South Ossetia have been a real sticking point in this relationship but it is Saakashvili himself who is now talking about the necessity of restoring it. Judging by the "Involvement via cooperation" strategy, Tbilisi is gradually coming to realize that it is necessary to mend relations not only with Russia but also with those who lost trust in Georgia, who was forced to struggle for their own independence and, ultimately, who experienced the deadly Georgian bullets, - with the Abkhaz and Ossetians.
I allow that, having started a dialogue with Russia, Saakashvili will gain score in the eyes of the Caucasian republics' leaders. Perhaps, people will see that the Georgian president is capable not only of squabbles and provocation. The question is whether Mishiko will venture such a step? Let us find out the opinion of experts, Director for Democracy Problems Research Foundation Maxim Grigoriev and independent South-Ossetian political expert Inal Pliev.
Grigoriev: Kouchner's statements are quite reasonable and informative. To some extent, they give Georgia room for manoeuvre. Still, I do not think Saakashvili will take them properly and make advances to Europe so long as he definitely and strongly depends on the United States, and the latter will hardly take up a similar position on the matter.
Pliev: If not only Saakashvili but the entire political elite of Georgia from the Soviet times to the years of independent republic had been able to listen to clever people it would have helped avoid hundreds and thousands of victims. Unfortunately, this is not only Saakashvili's personal fault; this is the sickness of the essential Georgian political mind: they believe that the whole world is tailored to their desires; I mean things are going the way they want. Kouchner's words might be compared to an eastern saying: "No matter how many times you say "halva", it will not make you feel the sweet taste". So far, many western powers are speaking about the "occupation", although there has been no "occupation" of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Yes, the dialogue is needed anyway but it should be conducted with those who listen to you and hear what you say. How can one dialogue with a country where they kill the prime minister and break up peaceful meetings?
Does Kouchner's statement mean that the West is gradually changing the viewpoint of the situation in Georgia?
Grigoriev: In my opinion, the West has got a controversial attitude towards Georgia. We can see two different approaches; one of them is more balanced and critical in respect of Saakashvili, while the United States continue sticking to the policy of supporting Georgia's current president, especially those circles that are closely connected with the Republican Party, security agencies and American "hawks".
Pliev: I believe there are not so many western politicians who would gladly shake hands with Saakashvili. It is the United States and the countries with the so-called young democracy, I mean mainly Eastern Europe, who remain the Georgian president's supporters.