(Civil.Ge) — Twenty-two Georgian NGOs, mostly think-tanks and watchdogs, which came together as the Coalition for Euro-Atlantic Georgia this September, said in a statement that the government should persist in pushing back against Russian occupation of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. They have warned against any initiatives that might blur such approach and create an “illusion of yielding to occupation”. They also said that civil society groups should be involved closer in devising the government’s approach.
The statement comes at the heels of the widely publicized interview with MP candidate Salome Zourabichvili, who said defining Russia as the occupying power in Georgia’s legislation is counterproductive to diplomatic efforts. Zourabichvili, who served as Georgia’s Foreign Minister in 2004-2005, is running for the parliament as an independent candidate, but has support from the ruling Georgian Dream – Democratic Georgia (GDDG) party.
In the statement, the Coalition called for maintaining the reversal of Russia’s occupation as Georgia’s key foreign policy priority in dialogue with its international partners. They also spoke for maintaining the Geneva International Discussions – a multilateral format presided over by the EU Special Representative – as the key venue for discussions with Russia.
The Coalition spoke against “any attempts or calls” for the creation of the new venues for bilateral dialogue with Russia. They have suggested to refine the current bilateral talks on humanitarian matters that are led by the Special Representative of the Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Abashidze and Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Gregory Karasin. The Coalition says Georgian representative should have the status similar to his Russian counterpart, while his mandate should be more clearly defined.
Foreign Minister Mikheil Janelidze told reporters on October 28 that the Georgian government’s policy towards Russian occupation “is absolutely clear and result-oriented”. He added that Georgian diplomats are “working actively” in all international venues where Georgian-Russian conflict and occupation are discussed.