Prague, 18 November 2005 (RFE/RL) -- Georgia's strained relationship with its giant northern neighbor is caught in yet another downward spiral. What should have been an opportunity for Georgia to raise its latest peace proposals for South Ossetia before an assembly of CIS parliamentarians has instead degenerated into another round of mutual recriminations. According to Georgian parliamentary speaker Burjanadze, national pride is at stake.
"We see this as a very grave and serious insult to Georgia and the Georgian parliament," Burjanadze said. "We can see no way to work under these conditions and take part in the CIS parliamentary summit."
At the heart of the problem, it seems, lies the initial refusal of the Russian Embassy to issue a visa to Targamadze, a member of the Georgian parliamentary delegation to the CIS summit and an outspoken critic of Russian foreign policy. Targamadze claimed he has been blacklisted.
"I can only tell what the Russian Embassy unofficially said. I was told that I am on a sort of 'blacklist' because of my statements regarding Russia," Targamadze said. "I can say that I stand by every single statement I've made on Russia. I am ready to repeat any one of them at any time. I do not think that any one of these statements was an insult to the Russian state."
From Bad To Worse
But matters have since deteriorated. Targamadze, who heads the Georgian parliament's Defense and Security Committee, said the Georgian military must be on its guard against Russian military invasion.
"In Russian this is what you'd call 'bezobraziye' (a disgrace)," Targamadze said. "If we have to talk about my phrase that the Georgian Army must be ready to fight the Russian Army, I have to say that such readiness on the part of our army is essential because today's unfortunate state of affairs causes us to think such a thing could happen."
Things have not yet reached that point, but the channels of communication between Tbilisi and Moscow are narrowing. Burjanadze has hinted at the possibility of Georgian withdrawal from the CIS, and Georgian parliamentarians now say they are creating their own blacklist of Russian politicians -- to be published in the near future.
Soso Tsintsadze, dean of Georgia's Diplomatic Academy, said he believes there is ample international precedent for such a response.
"Take Cyprus: Nicosia puts anyone who recognizes or visits North Cyprus on a blacklist and that person will never be allowed to visit the Republic of Cyprus," Tsintsadze said. "So it would be perfectly reasonable and normal to deny visas to anyone who visits Sukhumi or Tskhinvali without asking Tbilisi's permission. How can we possibly issue a visa to [Konstantin] Zatulin to come to Tbilisi, or to [Vladimir] Zhirinovskii?"
But not all Georgians share that view.
"I think it's an overreaction and not in Georgia's interests," said Gia Nodia, the director of the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy, and Development. "I understand that it was based on the supposition that Targamadze was denied a visa because he was on a blacklist and since then Georgian politicians have built their reaction on that supposition: So, if they have a blacklist, we will make a blacklist, too. It's a symmetrical response. But the fact is [that] Russia denies the existence of a blacklist and says the whole thing was a mistake."
That fact was confirmed by the Russian ambassador to Georgia, who categorically denied the existence of a blacklist, and by Sergei Mironov, the speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament.
Mironov blamed the entire incident on what he called the "sloppiness" of the embassy official who failed to issue the visa to Targamadze on time.
RFE/RL Caucasus Report
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