Final returns, issued yesterday, give South Ossetian Supreme Soviet chairman Lyudvig Chibirov 60 percent of the vote in the election to the newly created post of president of the republic. His opponents garnered 40 percent of the vote. Following his victory Chibirov came out for early resumption of negotiations with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze over South Ossetia’s political status. Chibirov prejudged the issue to some extent by insisting that republic status be conferred on what Tbilisi regards as Georgia’s Tskhinvali region. Chibirov also referred to relations with Tbilisi as a matter of South Ossetian "foreign policy." At the same time, however, Chibirov stated that "uniting the two Ossetias is unrealizable at the present stage."
The Russian Federation’s republic of North Ossetia evidenced a similar ambiguity. Its president, Akhsarbek Galazov, in a message congratulating Chibirov, advised him to pursue "normal relations with Georgia." That remark came despite the fact that, on the eve of South Ossetia’s election day, the two Ossetias signed a treaty of cooperation and friendship, defined as a "natural continuation of the integration processes among North and South Ossetia." (Itar-Tass, November 9,14; BGI, November 12; Interfax, November 13)
Chibirov himself has more than once indicated that unification with the North — entailing in practice accession to the Russian Federation — remains an ultimate goal. Tbilisi nonetheless regards Chibirov as a relative moderate and hopes that his enhanced authority will enable him to show some flexibility at the upcoming negotiations. A possible compromise may be found in legalizing South Ossetia’s de facto status as a republic in return for guarantees against secession from Georgia.
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