Osetian , Abkhaz , Georgian dilemma with Russians

this article focuses on the deterioration of relations between Georgia and
Russia over the secessionist regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia.
Georgia’s separatist conflicts are far more than domestic territorial disputes:
they have both regional and international implications, and represent one of
the principal obstacles to the development of Georgian-Russian relations.
As military skirmishes have threatened to escalate, jeopardizing stability in
the volatile Caucasus region, President Mikheil Saakashvili’s desire to
resolve these protracted conflicts has become symbolic of his vigorous
approach to tackling Georgia’s more intractable problems

wo years into his presidency, the Georgian leader Mikheil Saakashvili
still faces an array of daunting challenges, notably crime, widespread
corruption, economic stagnation, separatism and volatile relations with
Russia. Buoyed by his political success in both the presidential and
parliamentary elections held in early 2004, he made the restoration of the
country’s territorial integrity a priority, expressing his wish to consolidate the
country by resolving the enduring conflicts with the secessionist regions of
Abkhazia and South Ossetia. However, despite having had several years in
which to resolve the disputes, they remain locked in stalemate.

 Tension is
very high in the conflict zones and the threat of renewed hostilities remains
very real. Furthermore, the two unresolved conflicts mean that nearly 20
percent of Georgian territory is outside the control of the central authorities
and have led to the displacement of around 260,000 people, as well as
providing fertile ground for the smuggling of weapons, narcotics, and
Georgia’s secessionist regions represent one of the most serious
threats to the security and stability of the multi-ethnic country, a threat
exacerbated by Russian backing for the separatist territories. The hand of
its powerful northern neighbor has been visible in all of Georgia’s separatist

as Moscow seeks to maintain political leverage over the South
Caucasian state, and Tbilisi has frequently accused Russia of seeking to
undermine Georgian sovereignty by supporting separatist provinces. The
presence of Russian military bases on Georgian territory has only served to
exacerbate the situation and until recently the two sides have been
deadlocked in a dangerous game of brinkmanship, with Russia hoping that
Georgia will change its mind about the closure of the Russian bases and
Georgia hoping Russia will change its stance towards its separatist regions.
There are currently around 3,000 servicemen in Russia’s two remaining
bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi, which were supposed to have been
handed back to Georgia five years ago. 

By the end of March 2006, Moscow
finally agreed to a detailed timetable for its planned military withdrawal,
which is to be completed by the end of 2008, in line with a preliminary
agreement signed in 2005.1
There are two further groups of Russian military forces on Georgian
territory, operating under the aegis of CIS peacekeeping operations in  Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Saakashvili’s desire to consolidate Georgia’s
territorial integrity has pushed the country towards renewed conflict with
Russia, which not only has peacekeeping contingents in the two regions, 

but also provides tacit support for the separatists. The Georgian leader has
cautioned that in the event of large-scale armed conflict erupting in South
Ossetia it would be an issue of bilateral Georgian-Russian relations, not
merely an internal conflict. Speaking at a press conference in September
2005, Saakashvili declared that there is “no Ossetian problem in Georgia,”
but “a problem in Georgian-Russian relations with respect to certain
These separatist conflicts have implications not only for bilateral
relation between Tbilisi and Moscow and the stability of the Caucasus
region, but also for Europe and the wider international community.

 As the
European Union (EU) and NATO seek to expand their borders, it is
becoming more important to focus on conflict resolution on the periphery,
where the presence of weak or unstable states poses a threat to the
stability of its own member countries. Thus, resolution of these disputes
has become more critical and organizations such as the EU need to play a
more active role in the search for a negotiated settlement. Fundamental
issues remain unresolved and the threat of renewed hostilities persists, as
the Abkhazian and South Ossetian leaderships remain entrenched in
intransigent positions, with little incentive to participate in negotiations while
they have the security of Russian backing. Moscow holds the key to the
resolution of Georgia’s territorial disputes, both in terms of its relationship
with the separatists and the mediating role it purports to play

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