Sunday, June 26, 2011

Week 20-26 June: "Xождениe в народ"?

A long series of betrayed hopes.
That's the only way to describe the mediation over Karabakh.
And it's sad to say, for the # time, "predictably, no agreement was reached". It's sad, frustrating and false.
Because every single failed meeting doesn't leave the situation the way it was before. No-decisions have as many consequences as decisions, and it's just an illusion to think that the status quo lasts forever unchanged.

At the beginning, 23 YEARS AGO, the path chosen was the military solution. Its consequences were dramatic and unacceptable. Displacement, isolation, nonrecognition, hate and regional instability.
Another military solution would have just the same consequences.

Then, 17 YEARS AGO, a political solution was tried. Just to wrap up all the possible settlements taken into consideration: the Curpus model, the Chechen Variant, the Praga Process, the "Common State", the asymmetric confederation and the Transcaucasian Confederation, the Paris Principles, the Andorra Variant, and more recently the Sochi and Kazan Russian sponsored initiatives, the last of which resulted in a joint statement.
In a nutshell its text says that the parties agreed that they will agree. Better than the opposite. BTW, everybody knows that the opposite means war.
And then all the meticulous work of filing of the Basic Principles would turn in nothing but wasted time.

In the meanwhile war&hate propaganda made the communities affected by the NK issue unable to accept any compromise. Inter-community confidence is extremely low and no serious measure is taken to reverse this condition which, itself, can prove to be an insurmountable hindrance to reach a peace. The consensus to Presidents over concessions is at stake and this most probably impacts their flexibility in negotiations. They are well aware of the radicalism widespread in the public opinion.
On the other end, who else if not the Presidents? any lower level meeting wouldn't be considered effective.

Why not, by the way?
It's clear that this stalemate is doomed to last long and the political solution is still very remote. In the meanwhile it will be helpful to try the Social Solutions.
Wise and smart initiatives were activated and facilitated. It's worthy to invest more on these, because no paper signed (if ever...) will prevent people from hating and potentially attacking each other.
People to people and CBM should become the standard good practice, together with common projects about security and de-escalation of tensions (similar to IPRMs and hotlines, to quote the Georgia sample), technical cross-communities activities and media coverage of successful co-operations.

Peace and compromises should be welcome, not imposed.
This must be felt with urgency.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Week 13-19 June: Spot the differences

In the end, after denials and counter-denials, it seems that, yes, Vanuatu recognizes Abkhazia.
Vanuatu's clumsy, weird, queer recognition has - most surely heedlessly - set a precedent. For the first time the tandem Abkhazia-South Ossetia was set apart. All previous recognitions had affected both simultaneously.
Somehow this episode reflects what's actually going on. The two de factos are different, although the shared path of the last three years caused a mis-perception about their alleged parallelism.

It's a matter of population, resources, and why not? thou in a contest of illegality - for most of the international community - a matter of rule of law and internal sovereignty.
The death of "President" Bagapsh compels Sukhumi to hold early presidential elections. Next week the list of candidates will be drawn, but one assessment can already be made: there are the requisites for genuinely competitive elections, meaning that more than one potential candidate have sound reasons to hope for presidency. Acting president and Prime Minister can both have "Great Expectations".

The scenario is completely different in South Ossetia. Elections are scheduled for November. In the next five months anything can happen, if the last weeks are just a preview. Gasseyev's initiative to collect signatures to support a third term of "President" Kokoity ended into nothing. The "Supreme Court" ruled out its conformity to Constitutional provisions and... the "Parliament" had special, uninvited guests.
There are contradictory reports of an armed group entering the Parliament on the 15th. Rule of law doesn't seem to be on the A list of practices of Tskhinvali, once more.

So close, so far away.
And so close but still so far away are the words of Azerbaijani propaganda about Karabakh. Although an exchange of fire was reported on the 17th, it was not followed by the outcry of outrage, if not a threat of war, as it used to be some time ago. Tension eased a little bit, but everything is still on the plate.
So far, one can spot a difference, but only in words.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Week 6-12 June: Basic Principles

Welcome developments in Armenia. Between the ruling party and "radical" opposition flexibility replaces polarization.
Basic principles of good governance, indeed.
Why now?

Levon Ter Petrosyan might have realized that his consensus and his ability to capitalize discontent are not enough to pursue the goal of removing the current leadership. For both opposition and majority, what happened in Georgia might have been food for thoughts. Embarrassing and de-legitimizing events which won't ever be encouraged, but - quite the opposite - discourage support. A path leading to the opposite direction of integration into EU, NATO, international diplomacy or whatever.
Aware of his weakness, he sought a way to maximize what he had gained so far. Being considered the counterpart of the President could be not that bad, for someone who scored 20% at the Presidential elections in 2008.

Serzh Sargsyan displayed once again his stability. He didn't lose his temper or allowed himself to make stupid mistakes like a violent repression of the opposition but, on the opposite, from the firm standpoint of someone who's ruling and wants to keep ruling for another mandate, tabled some measures which immediately met the international support (a proper place for oppositions' protests, amnesty, inquiry on 03/2008 events) and re-assure many Armenian voters about the moderate politics of the current leadership. Moreover he knows very well that the responsibilities of what happened in March 2008 fall first and foremost on then outgoing President Kocharyan's shoulders, and he may be interested in discrediting him. Already then, back to 2008, he dropped a couple of statements assessing that it was compulsory for him to fully agree with previous President's crisis management.

A good example of rational choices.
Something which was apparently missing in Georgia, with predictable results. Strong antagonizing is not paying back, internationally and domestically.
These basic principles may be needed also in view of other Basic Principles... those that ought to be signed in Kazan 06/25.
If - it would be better to say "IF"- whatever substantial is to be agreed AND signed AND then implemented about Karabakh, there cannot be much room for dissent. Sargsyan and Aliev will need an extremely high rate of consensus to make the civil society accept some sort of compromise. Unless they are ready to face a strong backlash in terms of popularity, if not social unrest.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Week 30 May-5 June: The Ambassadors

Henry James in his novel The Ambassador might not have thought how weird the life of the diplomatic corps can be .
For the Abkhazian diplomats, first of all. Only partially recognized, Sukhumi had a week marked by ups and downs: the recognition by the Republic of Vanuatu, the loss of its President, Sergey Bagapsh.
Sergey Bagapsh was at his second term, he was the de facto President when Abkhazia was recognized as independent by - then - four states. The acting President is the Vice President, ex Prime Minister, Aleksander Ankvab. Sukhumi has now three months to organize and held Presidential elections. Ankvab could be one of the contenders, as well as the present Prime Minister Sergey Shamba. Most probably the Bagapsh circle will start an inner negotiation to present the most hopeful winning tandem, to compete against the two other most influential candidates of 2009, Beslan Butba and Raul Khadzhimba. On the occasion of his visit of condolence, Vladimir Putin was photographed with Ankvab and Shamba, due to their institutional roles.

As for recognition, Vanuatu is as puzzling as Nauru's precedent. What are these partners for? Is that just a display of weakness, to be unable to be recognized by countries that could play a more significant role in Abkhazian international development? Or is it done partially on purpose? A remote partner is a weak partner, a no alternative.
To Sukhumi diplomats to decide if the recognition is enough for itself.

Georgian, Armenian, Azerbaijani ambassadors in Rome were all busy to welcome their Heads of States, invited by the Italian one, Giorgio Napolitano, to celebrate 150 years of Italian unification on the occasion of the Republic day, 2nd of June. Beyond the official celebrations, it was a good chance to practice diplomacy.
Micheil Saakashvili held a meeting with US Vice President Joe Biden, together with a rich diplomatic delegation: the Minister of Economy and Sustainable Development Vera Kobalia, the Deputy Foreign Minister Tornike Gorgdadze, the Secretary of National Security Council Giga Bokeria. That is to say: business, foreign policy and...? The future president? For now, let's say security.

Ilham Aliev met other members of the Eastern Partnership, in particular Moldavians.
As for Armenian diplomacy, a presidential decree appointed the new Armenian Ambassador to Canada.
Ambassadors, ambassadors and ambassadors.
Alas to Henri James and his dark comedy. Life can be more than that.