Promoting dialogue on security guarantees in the context of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict

Alert is pleased to present its most recent publication on the Caucasus: Dialogue on security guarantees in the context of the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict. This paper presents the separate analyses of both Georgian and Abkhaz civil society experts on the need for security guarantees in the region, the reasons why the two sides have been unable to agree on these and the barriers and opportunities for future agreements.

In itself, the document is an achievement for Alert’s long-term engagement as a facilitator of dialogue between Georgian and Abkhaz civil society leaders and represents a step forward in the dialogue process between the two sides, while contributing to the debate around security guarantees.

Georgian and Abkhaz researchers agreed to examine questions related to an effective agreement on security guarantees. The papers include an overview of the different stages in the official negotiations; an examination of security guarantees in other conflict contexts; and an analysis of the events leading up to and following the hostilities in August of 2008. While the sides present positions that are familiar to informed readers, they do so in the context of an engaged discourse with the position of the other side. In order to prepare this paper, the authors shared drafts and debated issues rarely included in Georgian-Abkhaz discussions at any level. And while they disagree on many issues, the authors are united in the opinion that effective security guarantees are necessary for long-term peace.

One of the fundamental differences between the two sides regards the source of insecurity. For many years, the fear of renewed hostilities was felt mostly on the Abkhaz side. With the August 2008 events, this scenario changed and the fear of war is something that today is unfortunately felt by both sides. The Abkhaz continue to see the threat of renewed violence as coming from the east, while Georgians primarily see their threat as coming from their neighbours in the north.

In spite of different and opposing views regarding the source of threat and therefore the nature of a future agreement, the parties to it and its guarantors, both papers point to ways in which this impasse might be resolved and reveal avenues for continued dialogue on this issue.

The report also highlights the important role that civil society can play in building constructive relationships between conflicting societies and calls for widening the debate on this and other topics as a pre-requisite for restoring trust between the parties. The Georgian paper in particular calls for increased dialogue with representatives from Russian civil society, which Alert has been exploring recently.

In September, Alert participated as an observer to an initiative organised in Tbilisi by the Russian-Georgian Public Commission on Conflict Solutions which was established by prominent Georgian and Russian journalists after the August 2008 war. Alert commends initiatives of this sort, as we believe that public civil society dialogue is important and needed for the South Caucasus, and seeks to support attempts of civil society across the region to have constructive, non-politicised debate.