Parallells between Kosovo and South Ossetia?

Head of Georgia’s breakaway republic draws parallels with Kosovo

In the Channel One Europe “Judge for Yourselves” regular talk show on Friday 29 June, Eduard Kokoyty, president of the unrecognized republic of South Ossetia, maintained that if Kosovo becomes independent there will be no justification left for not granting the same status to his republic.

Opening the programme, presenter Maksim Shevchenko said that the last act of the Yugoslav tragedy seems to be unfolding. “The thing is that, led by the USA, the West insists on separating Kosovo from Serbia. Russia is against this while politicians and political analysts are warning about serious consequences of the possible split. There are quite a few territories in the world today which are aspiring to become sovereign states. These are South Ossetia, Abkhazia, the Dniester region, Crimea, East Timor and others. Can the separation of Kosovo from Serbia initiate a global parade of sovereignties which may seriously undermine international security?”

Eduard Kokoyty was given the floor to ponder whether independence for Kosovo may open a path towards officially recognized independence for South Ossetia. “Of course it will,” Kokoyty said, “and not only for South Ossetia but also for the republic of Abkhazia and the Dniester Moldovan republic. In a joint statement with the Abkhaz president we have already stated this and have written to the UN and other international bodies that this undoubtedly sets a precedent. On the basis of this precedent we will insist even more forcefully on recognition of our states in the future. At the same time, I would like to point to certain processes of change in the world, and it has happened before that after some time certain states were recognized. Some entities, former colonies, liberated themselves from the dominance of another state and were recognized.

On the other hand, I’d like to say that as things stand today, South Ossetia has more political and legal grounds if we discard the policy of double standards which the European and international community are applying to South Ossetia and Abkhazia. We have more political and legal grounds for recognition than Kosovo. So let’s look for and sort out the primary causes.”

Asked by the presenter why, in his view, the West has recognized Kosovo’s right to separation while refusing even to consider a similar possibility for South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Dniester region, Kokoyty said that “today this depends most of all on the USA because, together with its allies, the USA raises this issue unilaterally. At the same time, it is reluctant to look into the primary causes.” Kokoyty went on to say that “Kosovo is a result of aggression against the sovereign state of Yugoslavia whereas South Ossetia emerged as a result of the democratic disintegration of the Soviet Union on the basis of the constitution that was in force at the time, that is, the Soviet constitution.

Many in the West are telling us that the processes in Kosovo were monitored by the UN and other international organizations. If Kosovo is not capable of forming its own state, why should we in South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Dniester region suffer only because our peoples have shown the high political culture and will that enabled them to organize the states of South Ossetia, Abkhazia and the Dniester region?” When asked if he is in favour of independence for Kosovo, Kokoyty said that “we have greater political and legal grounds. Whether this precedent is set or not, we will press for our independence.”

Further, other participants debated the situation in Kosovo and its causes. Mikhail Demurin, independent political analyst and special envoy, explained the basics laws regulating territorial integrity of any country. Borislav Milosevic, Yugoslav ambassador to Russia in 1998-2001 and Slobodan’s brother, blamed the Kosovo problem on “an Albanian separatist project supported from the outside”. Kokoyty reminded the audience about the genocide of the Ossetian people which took place in 1920 and flared up again in 1989-92. “We are a small and divided people,” he went on. “This is a humanitarian problem rather than a political one. Our goal and task as I see them as a politician and head of state are to preserve our small people.”

The presenter asked Kokoyty to comment on Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili’s recent statement to the effect that “Eduard Kokoyty’s days are numbered”. “I would like to say that such statements do little to settle a conflict. We should think first before starting PR campaigns from various prestigious rostrums,” Kokoyty replied. He went on to say that Saakashvili’s words “don’t promote a settlement. The creation of some alternative structures was a widespread practice by the US special services in Africa and other places. But this will fail in South Ossetia today. The person who is today being offered to the entire Europe as a representative of the Ossetian people doesn’t represent anyone. And Saakashvili understands that this position is bound to fail. After all, [Tbilisi-backed South Ossetian leader] Dmitriy Sanakoyev is a sore on the body of the Ossetian people. He will never be in a position to resolve the problems of the South Ossetian people.”

Asked by an opponent whether he is in favour of independence for Chechnya, Kokoyty said that he would like once again speak about the primary causes. “What happened in Chechnya is an imported conflict stirred up deliberately to dismember Russia. After all, today the Chechen Republic has found its place and proper conditions have been created for the Chechen people. The Chechen people is not the problem. Look, today the Chechen Republic is prospering. When we speak about the struggle against international terrorism, why is Russia getting no support in this respect? Today the heroic feat of the Chechen people – and I’m not afraid to say this – can be compared to the heroic feat of the Soviet people in Stalingrad because it’s in Chechnya precisely that a very serious blow at the forces of international terrorism was dealt. You know, these forces of international terrorism have been supported and are supported today by those who want to recognize Kosovo today. If they had not financed these forces, they would not have been able to feel so much at ease in the North Caucasus.” Asked by Konstantin Eggert, chief editor of the Moscow bureau of the BBC Russian Service, if he seriously believed that the USA and Europe backed the Taleban, Al-Qa’idah and so on, Kokoyty said that “judging by the policies they are implementing today, especially in the North Caucasus, yes, without doubt. How else could these people have penetrated the Russian Federation?”

Speaking via a video link, Alain Deletroz, vice-president (Europe) of the International Crisis Group, tried to explain why independence for Kosovo should not set an international precedent for other breakaway entities. In the further discussion, after Eduard Lozanskiy, president of the American University in Moscow, said that in inter-ethnic conflicts both sides are usually to blame, Kokoyty disagreed. “Speaking about genocide, 117 Ossetian villages were burnt down but not a single Georgian village was affected. Why is that? You think we could not do this? No, because we were not at war with the Georgian people. Rather, we defended our own people. Therefore it’s wrong to make Georgia and South Ossetia equally responsible but this is what Europe is pushing us towards. Georgia must take the blame for the steps and the aggression against the South Ossetian and Abkhaz peoples it has committed. We did not invade Georgia! We are not building fortifications! Incidentally, when the South Ossetian side vacates all these fortifications in line with accords, the Georgian side is taking them over. In other words, a annexation of our territory by stealth is under way. In connection with what? In connection with the Kosovo precedent. To avoid a precedent Georgia wants to compel us to fight. Can we speak about equal responsibility when we are doing everything possible to avoid this war?”

In conclusion, the audience voted on whether independence for Kosovo may throw open the door to independence for South Ossetia. Fifty six per cent agreed and 44 per cent disagreed. The opponents of the Kokoyty camp noted with satisfaction that the results were encouraging as they showed that people in Russia are becoming more rational in their choices.


BBC Monitoring

Source: Channel One Worldwide (for Europe), Moscow, in Russian


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