Publication: Eurasia Daily Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 219

Saakashvili hopes to garner OSCE support for his South Ossetia action plan

Georgia has begun implementing this month the first phase of its action plan for a

political settlement of the South Ossetia conflict. This first phase consists mainly

of socio-economic measures, such as humanitarian assistance to South Ossetia’s

population and laying the groundwork for the post-conflict reconstruction with

international assistance. Politically, this phase involves creating an international

format for negotiations on South Ossetia’s political status as an autonomous part of

Georgia. The Georgian side hopes, perhaps against hope, that the OSCE’s upcoming

year-end ministerial conference would endorse at least parts of Tbilisi’s

initiatives in the ministerial declaration.

President Mikheil Saakashvili first unveiled the political concept underlying

Georgia’s plan in his speech to the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly in

Strasbourg in January of this year. Saakashvili then fleshed out many of the plan’s

political and socio-economic aspects in a conference with international experts and

Ossetian citizens of Georgia in Batumi in July. Those documents, an inter-agency

product of the Georgian government, held out a far-reaching autonomy for South

Ossetia, affirmative-action measures for Ossetians within Georgia, and

internationally assisted economic rehabilitation programs. Moscow and Tskhinvali

brushed aside all proposals, but Tbilisi continued working out the details and a

timetable for implementation, while quietly soliciting international support.

On October 27 Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Nogaideli presented to the OSCE’s

Permanent Council in Vienna a detailed road map for stage-by-stage implementation of

the peace plan. The document involves interim and final deadlines for Georgian

activities, for negotiated actions with South Ossetian and Russian parties, and

actions by the international community that are the ultimate key to implementation.

The timetable aims for decisive progress between two OSCE year-end ministerial

conferences: from Ljubljana in December 2005 (now in advanced preparation) to

Brussels in December 2006.

In the initial stage, November 2005-January 2006, Georgian activities would include:

enacting a law on restitution and compensation to those who suffered from the

1989-92 conflict; providing humanitarian assistance and winter supplies to villages

in South Ossetia; inviting South Ossetian refugees to return home from shelters in

North Ossetia; promoting Georgian-Ossetian contacts at the level of NGOs,

interactive open discussions on Ossetian issues on Georgian television and radio

with participation of Ossetian officials and public; working with the OSCE, European

Union, and the United States to organize a needs-assessment mission in South

Ossetia; and requesting assistance to create a free-trade zone in South Ossetia,

contingent on enhanced border control, particularly of the Roki tunnel.

Georgian negotiated actions with Russian and South Ossetian parties in the initial

stage would include: restoring public road transport between the “conflict zone” and

the rest of Georgia; coordinating efforts against organized crime; as part of those

efforts, agreeing on numbers and locations of Georgian and South Ossetian police

checkpoints and joint patrolling; discussing reinforcement of the Georgian

peacekeeping battalion up to its authorized strength; jointly reopening a

well-regulated Ergneti market (the region’s biggest smuggling hub until Georgian

police shut it down in 2004) based on joint control at the Roki tunnel (of which

Ergneti was the outlet); setting the stage for implementation of affirmative-action

programs on Ossetian language use and Ossetian representation in Georgia’s

parliament, government, and the judiciary; and, to crown this initial stage,

starting the

demilitarization process in the “conflict zone,” to be continued throughout South

Ossetia in the ensuing months.

Actions by the international community in this same stage should, in Georgia’s view,

include: creation of a Joint Rehabilitation Fund for South Ossetia, with Georgian,

EU, and U.S. donor support; high-level public statements by Georgia’s partners in

support of the peace plan’s political and restitution aspects; adoption of a

positive, constructive statement on South Ossetia’s political status within Georgia

by the OSCE’s 2005 year-end meeting in Ljubljana, as a distinct ministerial

declaration on this issue (i.e., not some obscure paragraph in a general

declaration); diplomatic activity by Georgia’s partners with other parties (i.e.,

Russia) to support Georgia’s initiatives, particularly creation of an international

format for negotiating South Ossetia’s political status; setting a January or

February 2006 date for the first round of those negotiations in the new format; and

accompanying that start with pledges of international assistance for post-conflict

reconstruction programs identified by the needs-assessment mission.

Thus far, Georgia’s proposals have the full support publicly expressed by the United

States, the New Friends of Georgia group of countries (in the Baltic-Black Sea

region), and the GUAM group. The European Union, whose member and candidate

countries add up to half the OSCE’s total membership, and speaks collectively in the

organization, has not yet taken a position while studying Georgia’s peace plan. The

OSCE Slovenian chairmanship’s overriding priority is a tranquil year-end conference

in Ljubljana, and it seeks Russia’s cooperation to that end.

Unless the United States pulls its weight in Ljubljana, the conference will fall

short of Georgian, allied, and indeed American objectives and interests on this and

other issues of strategic import. The OSCE’s 2006 incoming Belgian chairmanship

seems, by all recent experience and accounts, also an unpromising one. At the very

least, Georgia is proving that it seriously seeks a peaceful resolution despite the

odds against it; that its peace plan serves the interests of ordinary Ossetians; and

that Moscow treats South Ossetia as a territorial conquest.

(“Georgian-South Ossetian Peace Plan” presented to the OSCE Permanent Council,

October 27; PC proceedings, October-November 2005; see EDM, January 27, July 12, 13)