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Anger after Abkhazia’s Security Council head speaks with member of Abkhazian Government in Tbilisi

1 December 2023
The Interview between Sergey Shamba and Vakhtang Kolbaia hosted by journalist Vano Chokoraia. Screengrab via Youtube.

Abkhazia’s Security Council Secretary Sergey Shamba said in an interview with a member of the Abkhazian Government in Tbilisi that dialogue is needed to ‘overcome the conflict’.

On Wednesday, Georgian journalist Vano Chokoraia hosted a 21-minute interview on the Georgia–Abkhazia conflict with Shamba and Vakhtang Kolbaia, a member of the Supreme Council of the Autonomous Republic of Abkhazia. 

Shamba, who has previously served as Abkhazia’s foreign minister and prime minister, stated that ‘if there is a problem, then first of all, you need to talk’. 

‘There are no nations, neighbouring, close, or even related, who would not fight among themselves. All of Europe is an example of this’, he added.

Shamba also said that despite many in Abkhazia and Georgia remaining ‘very aggressive’ it would be possible to ‘somehow begin some movements towards mutual understanding’.

‘I have always supported public diplomacy and when I was foreign minister, our representatives very often met with Georgian opponents. This was an opportunity to understand each other’s positions. It is very important to begin this [process] to somehow move the issue forward. I am still for this’, he said.

During the interview, Kolbaia said that he recalled Abkhazian President Aslan Bzhaniya talking about establishing  ‘economic relationships that could lead to concrete actions’.

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He noted that Bzhaniya had said in his 2020 election campaign that Abkhazians and Georgians needed to conduct dialogue outside of the Geneva International Discussions — the only format communication channel between Georgia and Abkhazia and South Ossetia.

Bzhaniya then proposed multi-format negotiations with Georgia as part of Abkhazia’s foreign policy document, but later was forced to drop them after facing sharp criticism from the opposition in Abkhazia.

Controversy in Abkhazia and Georgia

The interview drew the attention of media and political figures in Abkhazia and Georgia, with Mamuka Mdinaradze, chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party’s parliamentary faction, stating that ‘we should talk directly to our Abkhaz and Ossetian brothers and reconcile’.

Giga Bokeria, the chair of the opposition European Georgia party, criticised Kolbaia for taking part in the interview, stating on Friday that ‘only Russia and Georgia are party to the Geneva negotiations — this was a principled position for us, and it should be a principled position for the current government’.

Shamba was also met with criticism in Abkhazia, where Temur Gulia, the chair of Aruaa, a veterans organisation, told RFE/RL that he was ‘absolutely convinced that the Republic of Abkhazia cannot communicate with representatives of the government of Abkhazia in exile in any format’.

‘I had a question: is this dialogue sanctioned by the leadership of our country? The Secretary of the Security Council is a public official, and his words are considered a reflection of the official line of the highest military-political leadership of the Republic of Abkhazia’, he said.

For ease of reading, we choose not to use qualifiers such as ‘de facto’, ‘unrecognised’, or ‘partially recognised’ when discussing institutions or political positions within Abkhazia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and South Ossetia. This does not imply a position on their status.

Read in Georgian on On.ge.