On Conflict Resolution and Compromise.

I wrote this article for the blog of my friend Giorgi Tskhadaia, Op-ed columnist at Liberali, Georgia’s foremost liberal newspaper. The article basically deals with ways to solve the separatist conflicts in Georgia through a negotiated compromise. The article was not meant as a comprehensive academic paper, but more as an outline of a few possible ways forward when it comes to conflict resolution:

On Conflict Resolution and Compromise (Richard Berge © 2011)

During the last two decades of the conflicts between Georgia and its two breakaway republics Abkhazia and South Ossetia, a few facts have become increasingly clear. Firstly, attempts by the sides to internationalize the conflicts by drawing in outside powers like Russia, the United States and more recently the EU have failed to contribute significantly to conflict resolution. Secondly, attempts to use force to resolve the conflicts have also backfired, and only resulted in making the conflicts more bitter and intractable. Further, the policy of Georgia and the West of isolating Abkhazia and South Ossetia has only driven them further into Russia’s embrace, and the reestablishment of Georgian sovereignty over the two republics looks increasingly impossible. The current status of the “frozen conflicts” remains detrimental to the economic, political and humanitarian situation in the region, and the time is overripe for the sides directly involved to come to the table and work out a negotiated solution to the conflicts based on mutual respect and the common good.

Such a negotiated solution can only be really workable in the form of compromise, where all sides gain some, but also have to make major concession to the other side. For example, a compromise can be agreed on whereby Georgia recognizes the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, while predominantly Georgian populated districts of both statelets remain under Georgian control, and a gradual return of Georgian refugees takes places under neutral, international supervision. For example, the Upper Kodori Gorge and Gali district of Abkhazia would remain with Georgia, as would the Akhalgori district of South Ossetia. Important infrastructure like the Inguri Hydroelectric Station, situated across the boundary between Abkhazia and Georgia, will also in its entirety pass to Georgia.

The Georgian refugees returning to the rest of Abkhazia and South Ossetia must refrain from raising any demands for regional autonomy or direction from Tbilisi, and in return the Abkhazian government must guarantee the security and safety of all returnees, including their right to life, dignity, property, linguistic and cultural expression. The returnees should also be given full democratic rights equal with all other citizens of independent Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and towards this goal the citizenship law of Abkhazia should be amended, including the abolishment of the article of the law restricting the right to dual citizenship. In addition, a truth and reconciliation commission should be set up, which aim should not be to prosecute war criminals or ascertain blame for the conflicts, but contribute to acknowledgement of human suffering and loss on all sides.

Unfortunately, negotiated solutions such as the one described above, have so far found few supporters. The political atmosphere in both Georgia and the breakaway republics almost exclusively promotes an “all or nothing” approach to conflict resolution, and there is a general lack of public support, and political will among key politicians, to make the sacrifices necessary for any kind of compromise. There is also the question of how the respective international partners and allies of the parties involved will react to their clients’ moving forward with such a deal. Some critics would argue that Russia and the Western allies between them exert too much influence over the de jure and de facto governments in the region for such a compromise to ever become a reality.

On the other hand, the fact remains that in the South Caucasus, the “puppets” often play the “puppeteers” just as much as the reverse, and that local elites and political forces on the ground in reality have a lot of space for maneuver. Both the Abkhazians and South Ossetians have shown themselves in recent times to be able to act against the will of Moscow, and US and European plans for Georgia have likewise often been frustrated and ignored by Tbilisi. Still, the hope remains that all sides involved will eventually see the benefit of such compromises, and that a political course correction will take place that leaves the road open to real conflict resolution.



About richard1983a

Richard holds a BA in Politics and Georgian language from the School of Oriental and African Studies at University of London, and a MA in Politics, Security and Integration from the School of Slavonic and East European Studies at UCL. He has worked for the Norwegian Embassy in Baku, Azerbaijan in 2009 and the European Centre for Minority Issues in Tbilisi, Georgia in 2010, focusing on human rights, freedom of information and minority rights in both countries. He is currently looking to publish his MA thesis on the political situation of the Armenian minority in Abkhazia.
This entry was posted in Abkhazia, Gali Region, Georgia, South Ossetia. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to On Conflict Resolution and Compromise.

  1. David says:

    Hi Richard,

    1. I read your blog regularly. I wish you would post more frequently, but then you must have other priorities.
    2. I posted your article to a military Caucasus forum (a lot of angry and aggressive Georgians, a few Abkhazians, Ossetians and Armenians and some more Russians). You probably guessed – there was no reaction. The concept of compromise is almost non-existent. Compromise is a dirty word in Caucasus. It looks like Russia, with its tradition of empire building and geopolitical thinking, combined with its military might and economic power, will be the dominant regional player in the area in the foreseeable future.
    3. What are your thoughts on the recent release of the data of Abkhaz census? The numbers are very suspicious. It looks like Abkhaz are over-counted (understandably so) and Armenian and Russians are under-counted.
    4. It looks like Russia is preparing for another intervention (road construction, Buratino rocket deices, new homes were built for the Russian troops in Abkhazia & South Ossetia, Russia’s Foreign Ministry’s report on human rights in Georgia, Javakh Armenians’ declaration of secession in case Georgia joins NATO, etc.) Russia has not completed its mission in Caucasus, especially (a) creating a land bridge to Iran (through Armenia), (b) controlling the oil pipelines from Baku. Do you foresee another likely (or 50% + chance) Russian military invasion in spring 2012?
    P.S. Good luck in your doctoral thesis.

    • richard1983a says:

      Dear David,

      1. Thanks a lot for reading my blog! I will try to post more often in future as a service to my dedicated readers!

      2. Unfortuntately, the focus on politics in the Caucasus is far too often limited to geopolitics , which is one of the reasons why I decided to start my blog, i.e. to direct attention towards other issues of importance in the region.

      3. I agree with you that the number of Abkhaz living in Abkhazia according to the 2011 census is most likely exagerated. There is no good explaination for the increase of the number of Abkhaz since the last census which was in 2003. It is also true that the numbers of non-Abkhaz in Abkhazia are routinely understated for political reasons by the Abkhaz authorities.

      4. I doubt there will be another war in the South Caucasus with Russian involvement unless 1) Georgia makes another attempt to retake Abkhazia and or South Ossetia by force, or 2) full scale armed conflict breaks out between Armenians and Azeris over Nagorno-Karabakh. Both these eventualities I consider not to be very likely in 2012, not least since most of the state actors involved will be preoccupied with their internal problems this year. This goes especally for Russia and Georgia, which both have elections and potentially difficult succession struggles coming up.

      Thank you for your reply, and have a good and peaceful New Year!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s