Georgia no longer wants Russian peacekeepers
The discussion about the status of the peacekeeping force in the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia was supposed to be one of the key subjects at the CIS summit in St. Petersburg. The mandate for Russian peacekeepers in the area of the contested area between the republics of Georgia and Abkhazia expires on June 30th. Needless to say, the peacemakers' legal status will be in question afterward, if no agreement is achieved until the mentioned date.
It is rather dangerous to let the situation develop alwing with the flow, since a new conflict between the Georgians and Abkhazians will be inevitable in this case. Yet, there is an impression that the present Georgian government does not want to prolong the amount of time Russian peacekeepers to remain in the conflict zone. Georgia does not want a new war, of course - they just found a substitute, and it is not hard to guess from where.
Yesterday, Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze denied the information according to which there had been an agreement achieved in St. Petersburg to extend Russian peacekeepers' mandate in Abkhazia. The Georgian president stressed in a radio interview on Monday that Tbilisi (the capital of Georgia) may demand the withdrawal of peacekeepers at any moment. The president said that Georgia wants a peaceful settlement of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. Furthermore, Shevardnadze added that "there are both external and internal reserves for this."
It is rather hard to understand what the Georgian president meant by "internal reserves." Yet, everything is clear when it comes to "external reserves" - Shevardnadze was talking about the planet's major peacekeepers, the USA and Great Britain. The president said in his speech that the issue of Abkhazia would be raised at the G8 Summit in France. Moreover, Shevardnadze said that American President George W. Bush would touch upon the issue. The British prime minister has already appointed his envoy for the regulation of the conflict in Abkhazia.
For the time being, it is hard to tell how the USA and Great Britain are going to intervene in the resolution of the conflict between the two republics. Will there be two envoys, or will Washington and London deploy their servicemen in the conflict zone? It seems that only the Georgian president knows the answers to these questions.
If American solders appear in Abkhazia, it will not be a groundbreaking or a shocking event, taking into consideration the foreign policy direction of the Georgian government. One may wonder to what extent Washington is ready to deal with the complicated mindset of the Caucasian nations, and how they might react in Abkhazia.
Ukrainian President Leonid Kuchma was the only person who found himself in an uncomfortable situation. In an interview on a Ukrainian television channel, Kuchma stated that he had put his signature on the document to prolong the Russian peacekeepers' mandate in Abkhazia. Shevardnadze responded that the Ukrainian president was talking about an absolutely different document that Georgia had nothing to do with. What document did the Ukrainian president sign, then?