Harold F. Schiffman haroldfs at
Wed Oct 18 12:47:18 UTC 2006

Eurasia Insight:

Molly Corso: 10/16/06

Both Russia and Georgia have hailed the United Nations Security Councils
October 13 resolution on the Abkhazian conflict zone as a victory for
their respective policy positions on Georgias right to reclaim the
breakaway Black Sea region. The Russia-sponsored resolution called on the
Georgian government to refrain from provocative actions in the breakaway
region of Abkhazia, whose separatist government has strong ties to Moscow.
It also extended by six months the mandate of United Nations (UN) monitors
in the conflict zone, which was due to expire on October 15.

Moscow began pushing for the resolution amidst a recent dispute with
Tbilisi over Georgias arrest of Russian military officers on espionage
charges that led to the evacuation of scores of Russian citizens from
Georgia and the recall of the Russian ambassador to Tbilisi for
consultations. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Further
measures by Russian authorities have included the deportation of Georgians
working in Russia, the closure of various Georgian-owned businesses and
reported police requests for lists of schoolchildren with Georgian last
names. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. Responding to the
Security Council vote, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov stated on
October 13 that the resolution was based on fact and a victory for Russian
interests. The resolution reflected all of Russias fundamental
suggestions, Lavrov was quoted by news agencies as saying.

Lavrov argued that the resolution unambiguously blames Georgias July 2006
police action in the upper part of the Kodori Gorge, a strip of Abkhazian
territory still controlled by Georgia, for the current tensions in the
conflict zone. [For details, see the Eurasia Insight archive.] Now, when
the UN Security Council has spoken out, I think that they [the Georgian
authorities] will have to follow these requirements, he said on October
13, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported.

But Georgia, at least officially, maintains that the resolution is a
defeat for Russia and its objections to the pro-Georgian Abkhazian
government-in-exiles presence in the Gorge. In a televised press
conference the day of the UN Security Council vote, President Saakashvili
noted that the resolution makes no mention that Georgia must vacate the
part of the Kodori Gorge it controls or remove the legitimate Abkhazian
government from the area. The government-in-exile moved from Tbilisi to
the upper Kodori Gorge in late September.

[T]here were two most important things that Russian diplomats wanted. The
first was the unconditional condemnation of Georgia's operation in the
Kodori Gorge, [U]pper Abkhazia. Such a document, although not compulsory
for implementation, would have had significant legal force, he said,
according to transcripts from the broadcast on Rustavi-2 television. This
was not supported, and it is a good thing it was not everyone must
understand that not one iota of territory that is already under [Georgian]
control - that is one third of Abkhazia's territory - will be handed back
to the separatists.

Saakashvili went on to call on Georgian citizens living abroad to return
home to help with the governments efforts in the upper Kodori Gorge. Your
own country needs you today, he said. We have achieved much for the
unification of our country. We are preparing for the return of Abkhazia,
and we will need our citizens to revive this region.

De facto Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh has characterized the remarks as
extravagant. If the Georgian president has problems with geography, we can
remind him that the upper part of Kodori Gorge is Abkhaz territory and it
will remain part of Abkhazia, the Russian television station Novy Mir
quoted the separatist leader as saying. On October 12, UN military
observers and Russian peacekeepers began monitoring the upper Kodori Gorge
again for the first time since 2003.

Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Relations Chief of Staff Vasili
Tchkhoidze, however, views the resolution as a sign that [t]he Security
Council supports the territorial integrity of Georgia. The fact that US
Ambassador to the UN John Bolton described Washington as very concerned
about the unresolved conflict in Abkhazia and regretted Russias decision
to veto an earlier resolution on the conflict was a reply to Russias
declarations of victory, Tchkhoidze said. [Some] cold water for the
Russian authorities.

Russia rejected an earlier resolution on Georgia after charging that the
United States had ammended the document without consultation with Security
Council members. Russias UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin also took issue with
a refusal by the US Embassy in Moscow to grant a visa to Abkhazias de
facto foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, to travel to New York to address
the UN.

Not all Georgian observers, however, share the governments official
interpretation of the resolution. The documents wording is nebulous and
includes apparent approval of Russian peacekeepers performance, commented
Giorgi Khelashvili, a professor of political science at Tbilisi State
University. Georgia failed to achieve a clause in the document concerning
the ineffectualness of the Russian troops, said Khelashvili. These little
changes that are registered now could have long-term implications.

Others see the resolution as positive because it extends the stay of the
United Nations Observer Mission. The fact that the upper Kodori Gorge --
recently renamed Upper Abkhazia by the Georgian government -- is mentioned
in the text four or five times indicates that the area has become a
centerpoint of UN attention regarding the situation in the conflict zone,
commented Giorgi Gogua, a Tbilisi-based analyst with the International
Crisis Group, an international conflict-prevention non-governmental

Editors Note: Molly Corso is a reporter and photojournalist based in


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