Masthead graphic based on a painting by Gudrun Thriemer.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Simon Saradzhyan, "Georgia: Conflict mediation faces hurdles," ISN Security Watch, August 7, 2008.

[Swiss ISN Security Watch weighs in a day before the dam breaks. -jlt]

"The aim of escalating tensions […] is to destroy the architecture of peacekeeping in the region with the hope of replacing it with new mechanisms that meet Georgia's requirements..."

The recent escalation of tensions in Georgia's frozen conflicts with its separatist provinces has enabled Tbilisi and its western allies to push harder for change in the peacekeeping and conflict resolution formats currently dominated by Moscow.

However, in spite of calls from Tbilisi and Washington for diversification of the formats, the latter could be blocked by the separatist regimes of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, which are recognized parties to the peace talks and whose consent is required for any significant change.

The past several weeks have seen violence flare up along lines separating Georgian forces from South Ossetia and Abkhazia and forces in spite of the presence of Russian peacekeepers, who operate under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States with consent of all conflicting sides.

Moreover, several people have been killed in sporadic exchanges of fire and Abkhazia has been shaken by a series of blasts which Sukhumi blames on Georgia.

Separatist regimes and Moscow both place the blame for the escalation on Georgia. Tbilisi has rejected the accusations and referred to the string of bombings and shoot-outs as yet more evidence that Russia is failing to either keep peace or achieve any meaningful progress in the resolution of either of the two frozen conflicts it has been co-mediating for years.

"If the format is not changed, then Georgia will face the necessity of unilateral action against the peacekeepers," Georgian Parliament Speaker David Bakradze warned in Tbilisi on 9 July. Both Bakradze and other Georgian leaders have repeatedly asserted that Russia is blocking resolution of the frozen conflicts to discourage Georgia from joining NATO.

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