Author: David

Thaw in a frozen conflict

The situation in the Kodori Gorge continues to be uneasy, with both sides in the “frozen” conflict warning of impending war. A lot of this appears to be rhetoric for foreign consumption. However, something is afoot, and a Times correspondent witnessed

a convoy of Russian military fuel tankers en route to Sukhumi from the border crossing on the Psoi river. At an Abkhaz base near the Kodori Gorge troops took delivery of two trucks loaded with shells.

Derision

Given his track record of inflammatory remarks, Luzhkov had been met on arrival at Simferopol airport by Ukrainian State Security Service officials, who gave him a written warning against infringing Ukrainian law or undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity. In front of television cameras, Luzhkov read out the warning derisively and, with his entourage, burst out laughing at the Ukrainian document (Russian Television, May 10).

-Vladimir Socor, in Eurasia Daily Monitor

Breaking the Silence

As EU ministers prepare to visit Georgia next week, Jamestown’s Eurasia Daily Monitor points to a hushed-up fact that needs to be borne in mind by the delegation:

The Russian military, not the Abkhaz (17 percent of the region’s pre-conflict population) evicted the Georgian population (45 percent of the pre-conflict population) from Abkhazia by force. Yet Moscow has tried to put an Abkhaz face on that act, thereby turning the Abkhaz from ad hoc allies into long-term hostages to Russian policy. Using a similar method, Russia is now attempting to put an Abkhaz face on the downing of one or more Georgian unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) in internationally recognized Georgian air space.

The Timing of a War

In the Washington Post, Anne Applebaum considers the possibility that Abkhazia could become the starting point of a larger war, and reflects:

If you wanted to attack an American ally, or if you just wanted to destabilize and unnerve an American ally, wouldn’t this be the perfect moment? Perhaps if the Russians don’t take the opportunity, someone else will.

International Support for Georgia

Civil Georgia has published a series of statements from international figures and organizations on the present crisis (the full text of each statement may be read by going to the Civil Georgia site):

EU statement:
“The EU is seriously concerned about recent developments in the Georgian conflict areas, particularly regarding the latest decision of the Russian Federation… to establish official ties with institutions of the de facto authorities in South Ossetia and Abkhazia without the consent of the Government of Georgia. The EU calls on the Russian Federation not to implement its decision.” Full Text

Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, NATO Secretary General:
“I am deeply concerned by the actions Russia has taken to establish legal links with the Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia… The Russian steps undermine that [Georgia’s] sovereignty. I urge the Russian Federation to reverse these measures, and call on the Georgian authorities to continue to show restraint.” Full Text

Condoleezza Rice, the U.S. Secretary of State:
We are very concerned about the [Russian] presidential decree that was issued… The United States is absolutely committed to the territorial integrity of Georgia. We believe that there should be an effort to carry out the plans that the Georgians have talked about to try and deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Obviously, the people of those regions need to have a good life and Georgia needs to provide for them. But we are very concerned at the steps that have been taken and we have made our views known to the Russian Government. Full Text

The U.S. Department of State statement:
“This step challenges Georgia’s territorial integrity and would not be in keeping with Russia’s status as a “facilitator” of the peace process.” Full Text

Julie Finley, U.S. ambassador to the OSCE:
“This move, coupled with Russia’s recent lifting of CIS sanctions that opens the possibility for military assistance to Abkhazia, has significantly increased tensions in an already volatile region… Russia is supposed to be facilitating a peace process in Georgia but is instead openly siding with the separatists, calling into question Russia’s facilitator role. We urge Russia to respect Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, to repeal the April 16th instructions, to play a constructive role in accordance with its commitment to act as a facilitator to the peace process, and to work with Georgia to encourage the Abkhaz and South Ossetian leaders to engage on Georgia’s new proposals for a peaceful settlement of the conflicts as a basis for finding a way forward.” Full Text

Toomas Hendrik Ilves, the Estonian President:
“One possible interpretation is that the refusal, the opposition to giving MAP by some [NATO] members, some allies, was perceived [in Moscow] as a green light to proceed with this rather dangerous step… The Russian decree we think is provocative, counterproductive and ultimately wrong… We think that this kind of decree should be withdrawn or revoked.” Full Text

Valdas Adamkus, President of Lithuania:
“Such actions destabilise situation and threaten security and stability in the whole region. I urge Russia to respect Georgia’s territorial integrity and sovereignty and to continue dialogue with Georgia’s government in Tbilisi… I encourage EU governing bodies and EU Member States to have and state their clear position regarding Russia’s actions.” Full Text

Carl Bildt, Foreign Minister of Sweden:
“News that Moscow will be taking a number of measures to establish closer ties with the Georgian areas of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is deeply disquieting… If measures are now taken that create the impression that this [Georgia’s] territorial integrity is in fact being violated – and with the aim of actually integrating these areas with Russia – it may have serious consequences. A political conflict in the immediate neighbourhood of the future winter Olympics is not in anyone’s interest – least of all Russia’s.” Full Text

Alexander Stubb, the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Finnish Foreign Minister:
“I urge all parties involved to refrain from any unilateral actions which could further destabilize the already tense situation. I call on the parties to look for ways to build confidence and engage in efforts to find a peaceful solution to the conflicts.” Full Text

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana’s spokeswoman, Christina Gallach:
“We are concerned about these unilateral decisions, we have always supported Georgia’s territorial integrity.. We have always believed that this type of conflict must be resolved through dialogue.” Full Text

Sir Brian Fall, the UK Special Representative for the South Caucasus:
“The proposed package of Russian unilateral measures relating to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia, would only increase tensions in the region.” Full Text

Statement by the Bureau of the South Caucasus Delegation of the European Parliament:
“These steps undermine the principle of territorial integrity of Georgia, as stipulated by all relevant UN resolutions and question Russia’s role of the impartial moderator in the peace process. We are convinced that such steps will only increase tensions in the region and we hope that Georgia remains stable despite any provocation, as well as the UN becomes aware of negative consequences of Russian military presence there.” Full Text