Address by Sergey M. Shamba,
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Abkhazia,
to the UN Security Council
The Georgian-Abkhaz war ended on 30 September 1993, and the negotiations between Georgia and Abkhazia under the UN aegis started in October that year. It was established from the beginning of the peace process that there were two parties to the conflict - the Georgian one and the Abkhaz one. Accordingly, it would be logical to suggest that, if an appropriate and objective decision is to be taken, an impartial mediator should hear the views of both parties. Based on this understanding, we repeatedly called upon the UN Security Council to give us an opportunity to explain our views and our position to the Council members. Unfortunately, the UN Security Council has not yet found it possible to consult both parties, which makes us think that the UN has not become an equidistant party. Indeed, the recent processes surrounding this situation, with regard to the chance of making a statement in the UN Headquarters in New York, have been widely discussed.
We were surprised to learn from the statements of high-ranking Georgian politicians that the US would deny a visa to the Abkhaz Foreign Minister, thus showing their prior knowledge of the fact that Abkhaz representatives would not be allowed into the UN Security Council chamber. We consider this role a highly subjective and partial one, and we hope that the UN Security Council will find it possible to consult both parties to the conflict in the future, provided that the peace process under the UN aegis continues. We have always supported the continuation of the UN-sponsored process considering that this offers a unique possibility for preserving regional peace and stability.
Regrettably, the negotiation process has ended in a stalemate. This happened because last summer, the Georgian side deployed its armed forces in violation of all previous agreements that had been reached between the sides. The United Nations Security Council, in its resolution 1716, urged the Georgian side to comply fully with previous agreements and withdraw troops from the Kodori Valley. Yet, as we have seen lately, these demands are gradually becoming less stringent qualified and Georgian police contingent is currently deployed in the Kodori Valley, contrary to the arrangement reflected in the Moscow agreement. In this respect, we can refer to other existing agreements, signed by UN representatives, including the Gagra Protocol that specifically provides that no armed groups or individuals can penetrate into Abkhazia from the Georgian territory and that the Georgian side commits to prevent any such attempts. In other words, there are documents that clearly state that this area should remain a demilitarized zone.
Also, we have to recognize that no significant progress has been made on any of the key issues since the beginning of the peace process fourteen years ago. Solutions are still to be found regarding political settlement, return of refugees and economic recovery of the region. We assume that practically all possibilities for a compromise have been exhausted. It is time that the Security Council and the international community objectively evaluated and considered the current situation.
And the situation is such that for 14 years after the war we were building an independent and democratic state in difficult conditions and under different sanctions and embargoes and have greatly succeeded in this. Abkhazia is demonstrating a progressive movement on the path of building an independent and democratic state. And there is no return to the past as this past was condemned by the entire civilized world. This past relates to the Stalinist era as it was exactly at that time, when Abkhazia, on Stalin's will, entered the Georgian Soviet Socialist Republic in 1931, that relations between the Georgian and Abkhazian peoples aggravated to the limits. And at that time, in 1931, massive popular disturbances were triggered exactly by the inclusion of Abkhazia into Georgia. All that time, until the disintegration of the USSR, practically every 10 years there were massive protests of the Abkhazian people who claimed secession from the Georgian SSR. Abkhazians are a small people, yet they were the only people in the USSR who so consistently, and with political reasons for it., defended their rights by such massive actions of protest.
In the 20th century, if we take the last 100 years of our relations, Georgia invaded Abkhazia twice. It happened after the disintegration of the Russian Empire in 1918-1921, when there were bloody battles in the territory of Abkhazia, and it happened once again after the disintegration of the USSR in 1992-1993. These wars led to numerous human casualties and huge destructions, and the relations between Georgian and Abkhazian peoples were put to very severe trials. Between these two invasions, during the communist rule, there was a number of developments that can be characterized as a consistent policy of Georgian leaders aimed at actual genocide of the Abkhazian ethnos. It was a period when the Abkhazian people was denied its identity and being physically eliminated, a period of planned, thought-out and well-implemented attempts to assimilate the Abkhazian people. All this makes it impossible for us to live together with the Georgian ethnos in a single state. All these actions on the part of Georgia deny it any right to colonize Abkhazia.
Therefore the only way to guarantee a free development and economic prosperity for our people is to build an independent democratic state. This is the way our people have chosen. It was determined in a national referendum and we would like to call the world community and members of the UN Security Council to respect our people's will. Any claims that the Abkhazian referendum and successive elections to government bodies and presidential elections cannot be recognized since they have been conducted in the absence of considerable part of the population who became refugees as a result of the war are invalid because the demographic changes that took place in Abkhazia after the war were triggered by the aggression unleashed by the Georgian leadership. And it is this leadership that should be held fully responsible for everything that happened in Abkhazia: for thousands of deaths, for destructions, for economic dislocation and for the refugees unable to return to Abkhazia today. They are unable to return not because we pursue inhumane policy but because there are objective circumstances that make it impossible to ensure security of the returnees. In situations when we can guarantee their security, when we can control those processes we are making efforts to solve this problem, in particular in the border Gali district where the great majority of the population who fled as a result of the war have returned to their homes.
At present it is not possible to return this people to the other regions of Abkhazia as it will lead to new clashes, large-scale bloodshed and, as a result, to the internal war. We are not interested in it and it is absolutely obvious that nobody is interested in it. That is why we discuss the problem of the return of refugees at the negotiation table, on a step-by-step basis and in accordance with the realities that emerged and now exist.
Thus, we would like to draw your attention to the fact that Abkhazia became part, of the Georgian SSR at Stalin's will, that our relations deteriorated and transformed into outright antagonism during the communist rule and that the international community which now condemns the communist regime and its consequences must just as well denounce these last atavisms of the communist era. It should denounce the consequences of Stalin's model of a union state building when Union and Autonomous Republics existed and we had a hierarchy that was imposed on us against the will of our people. After the collapse of the USSR the process of formation of independent states has not yet been completed. The recognition of independence of Abkhazia and other republics such as South Ossetia and Transdniestria would be a logical conclusion of this process.