There cannot be any doubt that the main effort for a settlement of the Georgian conflicts has to come from Georgia itself. International partners may always only play a complementary role in this respect. This role play has changed several times over the years. In the mid 1990s, the focus was on conflict settlement negotiations, with Russia. With the growing political distance from Russia, Georgia sought to strengthen the mediating efforts of international organizations. As a consequence, the OSCE and the UN took over the chairmanship of both the so-called Geneva Process on Abkhazia as well as of the conflict mechanisms set up at working level, such as the Joint Control Commission and Joint Consultative Group.
Due to the severing of diplomatic relations with Russia, Georgia has to rely on such mediating services rendered by its international partners today more that ever before. The challenge for Georgia itself to make its own substantial contribution has thus not become any smaller. This applies especially to the inner-Georgian aspects of the conflict. In this context, the introduction of a reconciliation process with the ethnic groups living in the secession areas needs to take top priority. The wars have left behind traumatic experiences among the population of both sides, which have a continued effect to the present day. The mere evocation of an allegedly historically unbroken ethnic harmony will not be sufficient for a renewed start of living together in one state. To re-establish human, economic and cultural contacts across the ceasefire lines requires the building of confidence.
The factor has been neglected obviously in the peace process so far-another reason for the August War of 2008 to have become possible. It was the rapid loss of confidence on both sides which led to a policy of confrontations and menacing rhetoric in the advent of the August War. the lessons learnt from the past were disregarded also in this instance.
As of 1997 initiators o the Geneva Process had expressly declared confidence-building as a priority objective. It was to this end that three successive conferences were held in Athens, Istanbul and, finally, in March 2001 in Yalta, at which catalogues of confidence-building measures were agreed. Unfortunately, they were put into practice only to a minimal extent afterwards. The reason is to be seen in an obvious disregard on behalf of the conflict sides, including also Russia, for confidence-building measures. These are considered as having a certain tactical function at most but no value in and of themselves. There is more or less no insight regarding the fact that basis for political compromise but may also be immeasurably relevant for preventing further inter-ethnic alienation.
The Georgian government seems to have recognized this challenge at long last and is attempting to live up to it with a policy made public in January 2010 and called “Strategy on Occupied Territories”. This strategy comprises a broad-ranging program of measures geared towards confidence-building and reconciliation. Practice has to show whether it is really able to fulfill its purpose or whether it is only, as alleged also by critics in Georgia, an attempt at placing under the state’s guardianship initiatives of independent players, above all from civil society.
source: South Caucasus 20 Years of Independence. Friedrich Ebert Stiftung
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