Georgia and Abkhazia have made first steps towards a peaceful settlement. A protocol on the withdrawal of Georgian Defense Ministry units from the Kodorsky Gorge was signed in Tbilisi today. The protocol provides for a withdrawal of the units by April 10 and recommencement of UN peacemakers and monitors’ regular patrolling in the upper part of the gorge. In accordance with the document, the parties have undertaken the obligation to guarantee the security of the gorge’s population. Special envoy of the UN to Georgia Diter Boden and acting commander of the CIS peacekeeping forces in the conflict area MG Alexander Yevteyev were the underwriters of the protocol.
Russia’s activity in the Caucasus region, especially regarding the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, has considerably increased within last two or three weeks. The arrival of US experts to Georgia, joint Turkish-Georgian training, the kidnapping of Russian peacekeepers, and recent acts of terrorism in Abkhazia testify to the increasing tension in the region. This, in its turn, may entail lamentable consequences for Georgia and Russia as well.
Yesterday, Vladimir Putin appointed Deputy Foreign Minister Valery Loschinin presidential envoy for the Georgian-Abkhazian problem. This fact demonstrates Russia’s seriousness concerning the problem. The signing of the protocol is the first step made by both conflicting parties. Concerning Russian-Georgian relations, the situation is quite different.
Last week, Russian Defense Minister Sergey Ivanov said that Russian units would not withdraw from Georgia. It was pointed out that this is just the beginning of activity designed to strengthen Russia’s position concerning the situation in the Caucasus. In the minister’s words, the recent Abkhazian acts of terrorism have the changed opinion of the Russian government concerning the presence of Russian troops in Georgia. This decision was also made because of the arrival of US instructors to Georgia; the exact size of the group has not been announced yet. Moscow does not understand why Georgia and the USA plan to form special teams. Sukhumi (Abkhazian capital) thinks that this is done for the settlement of the Abkhazian problem by force, and Moscow is inclined to think so as well.
Dmitry Litvinovich PRAVDA.Ru
Photo from NTVRU archives
Translated by Maria Gousseva
Read the original in Russian: http://www.pravda.ru/main/2002/04/02/39157.html