What can Georgia learn from the Crimean Platform Summit in Ukraine?

On August 23, the Crimean Platform Summit was held in Ukraine. Announced by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, the initiative aims to coordinate international efforts to unoccupy the Crimean Peninsula, which was illegally annexed by the Russian Federation in 2014. Other countries grappling with Russian adventurism could be used to learn from the summit. . One of those countries that could particularly benefit is Georgia, which is struggling to keep the international community’s attention on the issue of the Russian occupation of its territories. Georgia desperately needs statements of support from several countries on this issue, and Tbilisi can learn from Kiev’s efforts to garner support from the international community.

What is the Crimean Platform?

Zelensky presented the Crimean platform for the first time in the fall of 2020. In his speech to the Verkhovna Rada on the internal and external situation in Ukraine, he said: “The Crimean issue has come back to the fore. international agenda. We are creating a “Crimean platform” format. It is a coordination of international efforts to protect the rights of Crimeans and to unoccupy the peninsula. I have already discussed this initiative in detail with representatives of the European Union, United Kingdom, Canada, Turkey and other partners. Many of them are ready to join and take an active part.

One of the main objectives of the summit is to mobilize a more effective international response to Russia’s annexation of Crimea to Ukraine. It is a multi-level framework for designing actions that would increase the costs of the Russian occupation and contradict Moscow’s thesis on the irreversibility of its hold on the peninsula. The initiative also includes the Crimean Platform expert network who will work closely with government officials. The Network Forum was launched on August 6, with 180 experts and academics from 33 countries already expressing their willingness to join.

Representatives from 46 countries attended the summit, including 8 presidents, 4 prime ministers and 17 heads of foreign ministries or their deputies. Ukraine was able to keep its promise to bring together high-level representation from a significant number of countries. The five priority areas of the Crimean Platform were: effectiveness of sanctions, protection of human rights, security of the Azov and Black Sea region, overcoming the environmental and economic consequences of the occupation and consolidation of the international policy of non-recognition. Summit participants issued a joint statement, in which they condemned “the temporary occupation and illegal annexation of Crimea” and agreed to continue to impose “political, diplomatic and restrictive measures” against Russia. In addition to issuing a statement, Zelensky opened a Crimean Platform office in Kiev. According to the Ukrainian authorities, offices of the Crimean platform will open in several countries.

Link with Georgia’s problems in Russia

This platform is relevant for Georgia because two of Georgia’s breakaway regions are occupied by the Russian Federation. Regardless of the similarity of the cases of Crimea, Abkhazia and Tskhinvali (the so-called South Ossetia), the bigger problem of the Russian occupation is still present in both countries. However, unlike Ukraine, the issue of Russian occupation does not appear to be high on Tbilisi’s agenda, and without government initiative, only a small fraction of the international community remains concerned about the frozen conflicts in Georgia. Georgia would greatly benefit from creating a similar platform.

International attention. The platform would be a way for Georgia to draw more international attention to Russian occupations. Georgia recently scored the 13e anniversary of the 2008 war with Russia. Even though the “creeping occupation” continues on the de facto border with Tskhinvali, part of the international community has deemed the conflict frozen and, therefore, there are not many places dedicated to discussing the issue. . Peacebuilding efforts are also rare and unsuccessful. Since 2008, 34 villages have been divided by the de facto “border” between Georgia and the territories occupied by Russia. Dozens, sometimes more than 100, of citizens are detained each year for violating the “border regime”. In 2018, for example, 100 people were detained by the authorities in Tskhinvali and 28 by those in Abkhazia. In addition, residents of different villages along the Tbilisi-controlled border told Amnesty International delegates that their standard of living had deteriorated significantly from the “border”.[1] started in 2009 and ramped up in 2013.

Currently, the only framework dealing with the consequences of the Russian-Georgian conflict of 2008 is the Geneva International Discussions (GID). It was launched in 2008 and is co-chaired by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Union (EU) and the United Nations (UN). The IDG holds four discussions each year, which bring together representatives of the participants in the conflict. Discussions have stalled for years with no tangible results. The only other indication of the international community’s attention to the occupied territories of Georgia is the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia (EUMM), which was established in 2008. The mission is denied access to the territories. occupied and operates only in territory controlled by Georgia.

By creating the Crimea Platform and inviting world leaders to the summit, Kiev hopes that Crimea will be discussed more frequently by its friends and allies. To name just a few examples, First Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova presented the Crimean platform to the European Parliament and ambassadors of EU member states. Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba directly invited France to join the Crimean Platform. This approach is proving useful in keeping the Russian occupation in the minds of the international community, a goal Tbilisi should strive to achieve.

Russian threats. Looking at Russia’s reactions to the initiative, it appears that Moscow believes the Crimean platform is harming its interests in the region. Russia’s reaction demonstrates the platform’s success and potential. Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova issued a statement in March 2021 criticizing the initiative: “All of Kiev’s efforts to return Crimea to Ukraine are illegitimate and can only be seen as a threat of aggression against two regions of the Russian Federation. Foreign Minister Kuleba asserts that “Russia discredits the Crimean platform in every way possible and tries to prevent countries from participating in it.” In addition, Russia has openly declared that it would consider the participation “as a hostile gesture towards the Russian Federation and as a direct attack on its territorial integrity”. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov called the forum a “Sabbath”.

Ownership of the show. The international community must see that Georgia itself is working hard to address and resolve the Russian occupation. In recent years, Tbilisi has been less active in lobbying the international community to tackle the problem. The Georgian government has in the past rallied its allies and friends to the cause. For example, in 2010, the Georgian Parliament’s Foreign Relations Committee appealed to the legislative bodies of 31 countries and asked them to declare the two Georgian regions of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali as territories under Russian occupation. However, more recent actions show that Tbilisi cares less about the Russian occupation, which will not serve to help its cause gain international support as it does with Ukraine. In 2013, the Georgian Parliament introduced amendments to the 2008 Georgian Law on Occupied Territories, making it less costly in violation of the law. According to the amendments proposed by the government, instead of a criminal sanction, a person would be liable to an administrative sanction involving a fine of 400 GEL if he entered the occupied territories for the first time. Due to backlash from opposition parties and civil society, the proposed amendments were not incorporated into the law. In addition, the Ministry of Displaced Persons from the Occupied Territories, Accommodation and Refugees was dissolved in 2018. The State Ministry for Reconciliation and Civic Equality still exists but with limited activities.

A major new platform would prove that Georgia is redoubling its efforts to fight the Russian occupation of Abkhazia and Tskhinvali. The platform could become an important way for allies and friends of Georgia to lend their support and signal to Russia that the international community still condemns its actions in Georgia.

The opinions expressed in this article are those of the author alone and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Foreign Policy Research Institute, a non-partisan organization that seeks to publish reasoned and policy-oriented articles on US foreign policy and security. national. priorities.

[1] A process by which Russia seizes additional land hitherto under Tbilisi’s control by installing border posts, fences and barbed wire along the administrative border. Watch this video to learn more.

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