Security Council to Discuss Abkhazia and South Ossetia — Again

Another attempt to negotiate this enduring regional conflict…

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After Russia’s admission on July 10 that its military aircraft had flown through Georgian airspace, a livid Georgia requested a Security Council meeting with the participation of its representative. This followed a number of explosions in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, which killed, among three others, a staff member of the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG). In addition to calling for today’s meeting, Georgia has responded by bulking up its military, adding 5,000 soldiers and increasing its annual military spending by more than a quarter.

Seeking to calm the increasingly volatile tension in the region, Germany’s foreign minister, working with the so-called “Group of Friends” (which also includes the U.S., U.K., France, Russia,and Croatia met with the leaders of Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia over the past week. Security Council Report describes the prospects for the peace deal that he has proposed to the various sides [note: Sukhumi = Abkhazia and Tbilisi = Georgia…good old synecdoche in the South Caucusus].

The three-phase peace plan envisages a first phase of confidence-building measures, including an end to violence and the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia; a second phase of reconstruction; and a final stage focusing on defining the status of Abkhazia. While the proposal is still being refined, initial reactions from Russia and Abkhazia have not been encouraging. Sukhumi called the plan “unacceptable” as Abkhazia is not open to discussing its status and indicated that talks are only possible with Tbilisi if it signs a treaty on non-use of force and withdraws its troops from the upper Kodori Gorge. Tbilisi has said it will not renounce the use of force. Russia appears sceptical of a plan that suggests the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia before the situation calms down.

This closed-door session thus looks likely to end, unfortunately, much like the last one — with little real action taken. When one of the parties to the dispute also happens to be a veto-wielding permanent member of the Security Council, progress will be difficult at best.

(Flags of Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia, respectively.)