Aspects of the Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict
Editors: Paula Garb
This publication was made possible by a grant from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
Copyright © 2001 University of California, Irvine
Social Science Plaza A 3151
Irvine, California 92697-5100
This is the sixth volume in a series of publications resulting from dialogues on various aspects of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. The project is sponsored by the University of California, Irvine, with funding from The William and Flora Hewlett Foundation.
The transcripts in this volume were from dialogue meetings held in Tbilisi in October and December, 2000. The transcripts were edited to avoid repetition and to enhance clarity. The editors made no substantive changes to participants remarks.
The Abkhaz participants in the December meetings were six members of nongovernmental organizations the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes, the Foundation for Citizen Initiatives and People of the Future, the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights, the Association of Ahkhazia Women. They were Arda Inal-Ipa, Manana Gurgulia, Natella Akaba, Batal Kobakhia, Dalila Pilia, and Abesalom Lepsaya project participants who have been involved in several peacebuilding activities and have expressed their perspectives on the conflict in articles that they have written for the project publications (see the website below). While they were in Tbilisi they met with diverse groups of the Georgian nongovernmental sector, journalists and officials, including Members of the Georgian parliament, and the Georgian Minister of Justice. Since September 1997 this was the tenth series of meetings that UCI sponsored projects have convened. The main goal of the Abkhaz groups visit to Tbilisi was to widen the circle of people participating in citizen dialogues. This was the projects goal in December 1999 when a group of Georgian academics visited Abkhazia to participate in a series of public meetings.
The atmosphere of the dialogue meetings in Tbilisi was positive. Despite the diverse and sometimes diametrically opposed opinions that were expressed, the discussions were constructive and avoided confrontation. During the entire visit participants appeared to feel that the dialogue was important and necessary.
The topics of discussion at the meetings were perceptions about the roots of the conflict, assessment of the current situation, complexities of the conflict issues, economic sanctions against Abkhazia, acceptance of responsibility for the conflict and subsequent developments, models of relations between the two sides, and prospects for citizen peacebuilding. All the discussions demonstrated that people feel the need to express their opinions and be heard by the other side.
Abkhaz participants were impressed by the professionalism of the Georgian journalists who interviewed them, including the journalists from Studio Re and Rustavi-2. They felt that the journalists showed much interest in the meetings and the Abkhaz group. The talk shows taped by Studio Re were shown on Georgian TV, the December show about economic sanctions against Abk hazia even twice: in December and in January; early in February it was also broadcast by the independent radio "Mtsvane Talga" ("Green Wave"). Parts of the December show were shown on Abkhaz TV, and it is hoped that the whole program, translated into Russian, will be aired on Abkhaz TV
Participants in the dialogue concluded that it is necessary to discuss all issues that are on peoples minds and not to avoid any painful subjects. This is a long-term process that both Georgian and Abkhaz communities cannot avoid. Such a dialogue will help widen the circle of people who support the peace pro cess. It was noticeable that people who had participated in other peacebuilding meetings where they had the opportunity to speak their minds and be heard were more likely to talk about current and future issues in the peace process rather than about past grievances.
Therefore the project participants have concluded that they need to contin ue such visits to each others communities, to involve in the dialogue as many people as possible on both sides, and to give them the opportunity to express their opinions and be heard. This will make each visit more constructive than the previous one.
We welcome your feedback on this and other volumes as we plan future activities. The editors and project coordinators can be reached at the following e-mail addresses: email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, Abkhazia_NGO@yahoo.com.
We are grateful to the staffs of the Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democra cy and Development and the Centre for Humanitarian Programmes for their major contributions to the editing and publishing of this volume.
The Centre for Humanitarian Programmes
The Caucasian Institute for Peace, Democracy and Development
of California, Irvine, Center for Global Peace and Conflict Studies
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