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									                 Problems of the Conflict Settlement in Georgia

                                                                        Hanna Shelest

       Most of the academics classify the conflicts at the territory of Georgia as
ethnic. But in the beginning of the XXI century the ethnic conflicts in their pure
state do not exist – economic, political aspects, fighting for power and resources
more and more influence the evolution of any conflict. Conflicts at the territory of
Georgia (Abkhazia and South Ossetia) are used to be called ethnic ones. But
analyzing their current state and reasons for escalation it is impossible to ignore the
influence of the third parties, so called external factor, which play more and more
significant role in the process of escalation and settlement of these conflicts.
       The beginning of the current confrontation between Georgia and Abkhazia
has started from the attempt of the local authorities to separate from Georgia. This
led to the series of desultory fighting in the summer 1992 and to the deployment of
soldiers in Abkhazia by the central Georgian authorities. Nevertheless a lot of
scientists assume that these conflicts have deep roots, when two independent states
had existed. In 1921 under the difficult internal and external conditions the
Agreement between Georgia and Abkhazia was signed, according to which
Abkhazia became a part of the Georgian Socialist Republic.
       According to the Moscow Agreement 1992 the territorial integrity of
Georgia was confirmed and guaranteed by all sides [1]. After this, for the thousand
times in history, two fundamental provisions of the international law – the right of
nations for self-determination and securing the territorial integrity of states –
contradicted. But the present agreement has not been carried out.
       The beginning of the 90s was inaugurated by the euphoria of mutual
understanding, confidence and cooperation, that is why the idea of the
responsibilities diversification concerning the peace process was perceived
positively and there was not any resistance of the world community, so it is the
CIS peacekeepers, consisted only from Russian troops, who to start the operation
in 1994 in Georgia. Idea, which was in the framework of the Boutros Boutros-
Ghali Agenda for Peace, idea, which was wonderful at the paper, but in the real
life did not have mechanisms for realization and legal basis. Two international
organizations took part in the conflict management at the territory of Georgia, but
they mostly participated in humanitarian operations or as observers. Actually not
the UN itself but its organizations-satellites UNICEF and UNHCR really influence
the peace process, delegating military component to the CIS peacekeepers.
       Situation in South Ossetia is radically different from the situation in
Abkhazia. Confrontation, which has started in the end of the 80s, had not had
historical roots. First of all, because an independent Ossetia had never existed, as it
was with Abkhazia. The term “South Ossetia” appeared only in the 19th century in
the geographical academic sphere. Historically this land was called Samachablo,
where Ossetians had lived for years [2].
       The Conflict in South Ossetia came to a head in 1993, so it was no necessity
to deploy a military UN mission in the region. It was considered that the Russian
troops would be enough to maintain security. The United Nations and the OSCE
were limited to observers, because the Russian Federation wanted by herself to
settle conflicts at the post soviet area. It has happened not least because other states
did not want to be involved in this situation, as it could lead to the deterioration
their relations with Russia. But a situation appeared when the UN should send
observers to control Russian soldiers, because their activities were out of the
peacekeeping functions and principle of neutrality, as embodied in the appropriate
documents concerning peacekeeping. Official Tbilisi many times blamed Russian
peacekeepers, who are deployed in the two conflicts zones for indulgence of
separatists. So on the 19th of January 2005 the Minister of Foreign Affairs of
Georgia Salome Zurabishvili declared that Tbilisi could question the presence of
the Russian peacekeepers in Abkhazia, what is de facto a guarantee for the
separatists’ authorities in the region to keep power. “We are not against the
presence of the Russian peacekeepers. The question is about the legitimacy of their
presence in the region” – said Zurabishvili to the Interfax information agency.
“Russia should play a role of the impartial mediator. In some moments Russia
stops to be an objective one” – the head of the Ministry said [3].
       Georgia many times suggested to Ukraine and Azerbaijan to join the Russian
peacekeepers. The agreement in principle exists, but both states are not members
of the Tashkent Pact, so they cannot participate in the framework of the CIS
contingent, so the variants to join on the basis of the bilateral agreement
(Azerbaijan) or under the UN mandate (Ukraine) were suggested.
       In August 2004 the military clashes between Georgia and South Ossetia
started once again, and led to the dangerous confrontation between South Ossetian
militia and Russian mercenaries from one side and Georgian soldiers in South
Ossetia and from another side of the border from another side. First time after the
end of the civil war 1991-1992 such a concentration of Georgian militarists, who
are not part of the peacekeeping forces at the territory of South Ossetia was
witnessed [4].
       Transit potential of the country, as well as close neighborhood with the
NATO member-state Turkey always make Georgia strategically important for
Russia, in particular for the military bases disposition. Moreover there are
important ports at the Georgian coast of the Black Sea, as well as potential and
existed pipelines for oil and gas transit. For example the only pipeline which unites
Russia and her partner Armenia passes Georgian territory. Nevertheless, big
interest of Russia to the fighting terrorism at the territory of Georgia and natural
resources of Caucasus led to the increase in American interest to this region, which
was expressed by sending military instructors for preparation of the Georgian
       For the opinion of the Head of the Information-Analytical department of the
Institute of Political and Military Analyses Alexander Hramchihin, Russian
strategists were concerned that Washington really could assist in solving regional
conflicts –including Nagorniy Karabakh and Abkhazia – and so on to secure
stability and security at the former outskirts of the Russian Empire. In this scenario
the United States could be a major guarantor of peace and wellness at the Caucasus
and in this situation Russia could stay alone.
        “Declared the readiness to save his military presence in Georgia,
Washington as a matter of fact gave a sign to the biggest world investors, telling
that their interests at the South Caucasus would be secured” – thinks Georgian
political scientist Ramaz Klimiashvili [5].
       By her intervention in the situation in South Ossetia and Abkhazia Russia,
by the opinion of the New Zealand historical scientist James Graham, lost a chance
which was granted by the collapse of the Soviet Union in the beginning of the 90s,
and brushed aside Georgia, which more and more have seen her future with the
West, and with the USA in particular, that can happen only by the cost of Russian
interests [6]. Permanent intervention of Russian Federation is not surprised,
because she has strategic interests in this region, as follows:
       1.        Disintegration of the Soviet Union led to the loss of influence in
                 the former republics, which traditionally considered alliances.
                 More than ever this situation became sharp after Georgian denial to
                 become a full member of the CIS and to sign Tashkent Pact. After
                 the collapse of the USSR Georgia has started to look for western
                 alliance and investors for economic recovery and getting beyond
                 the dominant control of Russia. Turkey and the European Union
                 were interested in cooperation with Georgia, which had a strategic
                 importance as a NATO neighbor and as a transit state.
       2.        The second strategic interest of Russian Federation is natural
                 resources of Caucasus and Caspian Sea. It is understandable that
                 Russia would like to control the oil and gas transportation as well
                 as trade routs of the Silk Road.
       3.        And the last one, Russia has its military bases at the territory of the
                 Caucasian states, which are used for the protection of Russian
                 borders and securing the presence in the region. But Georgia and
                 Azerbaijan called to the NATO for assistance in military reform.
                 Moreover they would like to join the North Atlantic Alliance.
                 Despite the proclaimed NATO-Russian cooperation, Russia still
                 negatively thinks about the further Alliance influence wide
                 spreading. As a result of difficult negotiations only in May 2005
                 Russia and Georgia agreed on Russian army withdrawal by the end
                 of 2008, despite that fact that in the beginning Russia had insisted
                 that it would take 11 years [7].
       On the 9th of September 2005 President of Georgia Mikhail Saakashvili
accused Moscow in Abkhazia and South Ossetia militarization. Mr. Saakashvili
said to the Russian Information agency “Novosti”: “Arms transfer to the separatists
takes place, which should not be in the interest of Russia, but it seems as it is an
answer to the strengthening of Georgia”. Before Mr. Saakashvili had already
expressed his opinion that problem of Abkhazia and South Ossetia in reality was a
problem of relations with Russia.
       Since 2000 the Georgian authority several times have called to the UN
Security Council with a request to change the UN Resolution including a point
concerning the United Nations peaceful involvement in the region. They insisted
on the more decisive actions of the world community, because the previous
resolutions had not led to the concrete result. However it was difficult for the world
community to make such a step, as on practice it is difficult to observe a brink
between a peace enforcement and humanitarian intervention. After escalation in
the former Yugoslavia, failure in Rwanda and Somali, the United Nations did not
take a responsibility for more decisive actions in Georgia.
       In March 2003 the Abkhazian leaders rejected a diplomatic initiative, which
was directed on the final termination of the civil war 1992-1993. The main point of
this initiative coming from “Group of friends of the Secretary General”, which
comprises from France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Russia and the USA, was
a proposition to grant a broad autonomy to Abkhazia under the Georgian
jurisdiction. However the Abkhazian leaders insisted on proclaiming its republic
an independent state [8].
       After coming to power, Mr. Saakashvili declared resolution of the conflicts
with Georgian regions as his priority. However Abkhazia and South Ossetia
rejected proposition of Tbilisi about granting them a special status within Georgia
on condition that they would reject from their separatist aspiration.
       In January 2005 on the Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili request the
plan, which had been developed by the Government together with different NGOs
and was presented by the President at the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council
of Europe. This plan covered several propositions on conflict settlement in
Abkhazia. In particular it was supposed to turn Georgia into a federal state;
moreover, in Georgian Parliament should be a system of quota for ethnic Abkhaz,
lifting of economic sanctions and renewing of the railway connection between
Tbilisi and Abkhaz capital Sukhumi (this point came into reality in July 2005). It
was expected that Abkhazia from its side would rejected its aspiration for
independence and would agree on federal status in the framework of the Georgian
“federal state” [3].
       It seems as relations between Georgia and Abkhazia are becoming better
step by step, at least both sides more often agree to sit down to negotiation table.
On the 4th of August 2005 in Tbilisi the negotiation between Abkhazia and Georgia
were held under the UN mediation, these negotiations were considered as
constructive by both sides. Only general issues were discussed during them, but
they were considered as a starting point for the more detail negotiations in the
future [9].
       In September 2005 Mikhail Saakashvili named a call for international
conference with the participation of Russia, the USA, international organizations
as an instrument for solving problems of self-proclaimed republics and
improvement of the relations with Russia. At this conference the question of the
future Russian participation in the peace process for resolving conflicts in
Abkhazia and South Ossetia should be discussed. For the first time the readiness to
join the process of peace settlement of conflicts in Georgia was expressed by the
United States.
       The Georgian government actively forwards a plan of the peace settlement
in South Ossetia. Proposed by Tbilisi plan of the reintegration of the separatist
region is supported by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
South Ossetian authorities do not hide their cool attitude towards Tbilisi. On the
10th-11th of July 2005 the Saakashvili’s Administration organized a conference in
Batumi concerning the further promotion of their peace settlement plan. Despite
the rejection of the South Ossetia leaders to participate in this forum, the
representatives of the Georgian government and international experts expressed
their hope that these peace initiatives would be embodied.
       This plan suggested:
     Guarantees of the language rights and securing of the cultural heritage.
     Damage compensation caused during the conflict 1990-1992.
     Establishing a commission for investigation of the crimes against civilians.
     “Simplified border regime” for the Ossetians who live along the Russian
     Guarantees of the South Ossetians representation in the Georgian central
    In Saakashvili’s proposition is said that “Georgian government will guarantee
economic rehabilitation of South Ossetia, allocate necessary money from the
Georgian State budget for the infrastructure reconstruction”. According to the
peace plan the local authorities should be responsible for economic policy
realization [10]. Also it was proposed to establish a special economic zone in
South Ossetia. Georgian government lobbying Bush’s Administration and
international organizations, urging to persuade Russia, which supports
administrations in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, in the necessity of the peace
       If to make a conclusion concerning the present situation at the territory of
Georgia, so it is rather evident that fact that it is Russia and her influence on the
South Ossetian and Abkhazian authorities which slow down the peace process in
Georgia. What Russia proclaims does not mean that it can be a neutral mediator in
the settlement of these conflicts. Without her support and direct interfering in the
internal affairs of these two regions, ambitions of their leaders can come to
nothing, because they do not have any financial, economic, resource potential for
the independent existence without constant infusion from Russia. Variant of the
creation of the federal states with broad authorities of the regions is one of the most
       Concerning the United States so they are not an alternative for Russia in the
settlement of these conflicts. As Russia, the USA is perceived not as an
independent mediator, but as supporting only one side. So the right decision should
be to activate the UN role in the settlement of this conflict and to change Russian
peacekeepers for multinational contingent. Logically in this situation will be
attraction of the Ukrainian peacekeepers, which are positively perceived by both
sides. It is necessary to elaborate a possibility of developing a peace plan after the
manner of the Ukrainian plan for Transnistria 2005; however such initiative can
bring much more opposition of the Russian Federation than situation in Moldova
where Russia lately have lost most of its influence.

  1. Summary resolution on the meeting in Moscow on the 3 September 1992.
  2. Нодия Г. Политическая смута и этнотерриториальные конфликты в
  3. Македон Дж., Корсо М. Грузинский план мирного урегулирования в
  Абхазии не внушает оптимизма. 21.01.2005
  4. Алпейри Дж. Южная Осетия: мир – понятие относительное. 31.I.2005
  5. Торбаков И. Россия пытается нейтрализовать растущее влияние США
  на Кавказе. 09.06.2002
  6. Graham J. Russia's Policy towards Ethnic Conflict in Independent Georgia
  7. 09.09.2005
  8. Девдариани Дж. В споры России и Грузии по абхазскому вопросу
  пытаются втянуть и Соединенные Штаты. 03.07.2003
  9. Римпл П. Готовы ли Абхазия и Грузия отправиться в путь на поезде
  мира? 08.08.2005
  10. Корсо М. Грузия выдвигает план мирного урегулирования в Южной
  Осетии 13.07.2005

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