Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has unveiled his much-touted peace plan for South Ossetia, but analysts in Tbilisi say that expectations are low that the proposal will reverse more than 13 years of hostilities between Georgia and the breakaway region.
Under the terms of the peace plan outlined by Saakashvili on January 26 at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in Strasbourg, France, South Ossetia would retain its autonomy and have the right to elect its own government, with an executive branch and parliament. The government in Tskhinvali, the South Ossetian capital, would have authority over local economic, cultural, education, environmental and law enforcement policy. Tbilisi, meanwhile, would be responsible for defense, foreign and human rights policies. At the same time, the Georgian constitution would be amended to guarantee that South Ossetian "voices will be present" in Georgia's judicial system, Constitutional Court and parliament.
In a move to win popular support among South Ossetians, the plan would also pay pension arrears, provide compensation for property damaged in the 1991-1992 war with Georgia, rebuild infrastructure and "leverag[e] the generosity of the international community" for a series of economic development projects. South Ossetians, Saakashvili said, "deserve to share in the economic prosperity and stability that is now characteristic of the rest of Georgia."
The South Ossetian language would also be granted official status and central government funds would be committed for as yet unspecified use in preserving South Ossetian culture.
The transition, however, would not be immediate. Saakashvili proposed a three-year "conflict-resolution period" during which mixed South Ossetian and Georgian police forces would uphold public order in South Ossetia. During this period, South Ossetian armed forces would be incorporated into the Georgian military. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe would act as the plan's "peace monitor," while the European Union would serve as its "peace guarantor," Saakashvili said.
"The road to peace will not be immediate. It will not be easy as well," Saakashvili told PACE delegates. "Peace is not in everybody's interest
Corso is a freelance journalist and photographer based in Tbilisi.