Sergey Lavrov’s visit to Abkhazia caused much ado among Sukhum residents
The Russian Foreign Minister, Sergey Lavrov, spent two whole days in Abkhazia and concluded his visit on 19 April.
Tbilisi officially expressed its protest over the Russian FM’s visit to Abkhazia and termed it as ‘a provocation’.
But for Abkhazia, Sergey Lavrov’s visit was one of the most important April events, attracting great interest from Sukhum residents.
Although no new documents or agreements were signed during the visit, a couple of statements were made that could be regarded as a step towards resolving all the issues that remain a priority for Russia in its relations with Abkhazia.
Opening of a new RF Embassy building in Abkhazia
Officially, his visit was timed to coincide with a solemn inaugural ceremony of a set of new Russian Embassy buildings in Sukhum, that was held on 18 April.
Sergei Lavrov and Semen Grigorov
“Let me congratulate all our diplomats with the new residence, and let our friendship with the Abkhazian nation last forever,” Lavrov said while launching the official part of the event.
Lavrov also stated that a commemorative plaque for the Russian diplomats, Dmitry and Olga Vishernev, who were murdered in Sukhum in 2013, would likely be installed at the embassy building.
The Russian Foreign Minister met with Abkhazian President, Raul Khjimba and Foreign Minister, Daur Kove.
Sergei Lavrov and President of Abkhazia Raul khajimba
The meeting was mostly held behind closed doors, without reporters’ participation. President Khajimba briefly outlined the issues to be discussed at the meeting:
- Protection of the Russian-Abkhazian border;
- Granting Russian citizenship to the citizens of Abkhazia;
- Implementation of projects as part of the 2015-2017 investment program for the socio-economic development of Abkhazia.
Protection of the Russian-Abkhazian border
According to the Abkhazia-Inform agency, Sergey Lavrov stated, following the meeting with the Abkhazian President Raul Khajimba, that: “The safety of the Republic of Abkhazia is most securely ensured and guaranteed by those relations that are enshrined in the interstate treaty between the Russian Federation and the Republic of Abkhazia, as well as by those specific measures that … are being taken to ensure the daily guarantee of non-occurrence of any aggressive encroachments from the outside.”
Abkhazia’s cooperation with international organizations
Answering reporters’ questions, Lavrov stated that Moscow would highly welcome Abkhazia’s cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO). However, he pointed out that in order to be granted full membership or observer status in the organization, the country required a consensus by all members of the CSTO.
Russian citizenship for Abkhazian nationals
“When will the procedure of acquiring Russian citizenship be facilitated for the citizens of Abkhazia?” this question was voiced at the news conference.
Sergey Lavrov responded that back in 2016, the Russian side had offered to formalize a treaty on dual citizenship with Abkhazia and is currently awaiting its timely endorsement. As the Russian Foreign Minister noted, “This will allow us to proceed with the practice of granting Russian citizenship through a simplified procedure.”
Abkhazian President, Raul Khajimba, in turn, stated that the bill is currently in the Cabinet of Ministers and that it will thereafter be submitted for consideration to the Parliament.
Russian cargo transit through Abkhazia to Armenia
“Have you discussed the issue of possible resumption of the Russian cargo transit through Abkhazia to Armenia?” the reporters asked.
“The Russian side has no problem with the resumption of cargo transit,” Sergey Lavrov answered, emphasizing that there were ‘legal grounds’ for that.
Sergey Lavrov referred to the agreements reached between the RF and the World Trade Organization at Russia’s accession to this organization in 2011.
“We know that our Armenian colleagues are interested in the resumption of transit. The Abkhazian President said that Abkhazia wasn’t against it. Thus, it probably doesn’t depend on us, but rather on the country where this transit is being carried out,” the Minister said.
President Khajimba, in turn, pointed out that the resumption of transit would allow Abkhazia to have additional budget resources. He noted that those issues should be solved in a civilized manner.
“If there is readiness on part of the Georgian side, I have no doubt that this process can be settled,” said the Abkhazian leader.
Non-use of force treaty
As the Russian Foreign Minister stated at the news conference, he regarded “…as very realistic the conclusion of a legally binding non-use of force document … using for this purpose the format of Geneva discussions on stability and security in the Caucasus.”
Lavrov particularly stressed the importance of further engagement in Geneva discussions.
Embankment promenade and ‘Russdrama’ theatre
Sergey Lavrov also attended a wreath-laying ceremony at the monument in the Park of Glory.
Then he found some time for a promenade along Sukhum embankment and had a cup of coffee on the boulevard, in Brekhalovka.
Irakli Khintba, the Director of the Russian Drama Theatre, invited Sergey Lavrov to a photo exhibition featuring the most recent theatrical premiers. The actors also performed for the Minister a bit from the ‘Five Nights’ play, as well as two musical compositions.
It was the fourth visit by the Russian Foreign Minister to Abkhazia. This time it appears to have been just a business trip, from which one should not expect any decisions or changes. Top Russian officials haven’t visited Abkhazia for quite a long time and that’s probably the reason why Lavrov’s visit has caused such ado.
- Russia-Abkhazia Alliance Treaty entered into force on 5 March 2015.