The media report that Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze has commissioned the National security council to prepare a petition to the UN and OSCE on the implementation of chapter 7 of the UN Regulations and on alteration of peacekeepers’ warrant in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.
As is known, chapter 7 (Activities under the conditions of a threat to peace and acts of aggression) makes provisions for using preventive and coercive measures, including with the use of armed forces, for restoring international peace and stability. In particular, this chapter makes it possible to use international peacekeeping contingents in order to settle conflicts. Georgian society has approved of this initiative. At the same time, everyone understands that implementation of chapter 7 of the UN Regulations would mean the beginning of combat operations.
This is why Eduard Shevardnadze had to explain his initiative on July 14: “An address to the UN regarding the implementation of article 7 in Abkhazia does not mean an immediate use of force. This is part of a political process as a result of which the radical part of the Abkhazian leadership must understand that there are no alternatives to a compromise.”
Eduard Shevardnadze made this statement in an interview with the National radio when commenting on hunger-strike organized by refugees from Abkhazia in Tbilisi: refugees demand that Russian peacekeepers be withdrawn from the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, and the UN implement article 7.
According to the Georgian president, the Foreign Ministry received an order to prepare a document on the implementation of article 7, which will be submitted to the UN Security Council. According to the president, he asked the UN Security Council to implement this article two years ago.
The president denied statements made by the leaders of the opposition that the Georgian leadership intends to provoke a war in Abkhazia on the eve of a parliamentary election on November 2. The president said that an opinion poll showed that 80% to 85% of Georgian citizens support a peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian and Georgian-Ossetian conflicts.
In the meantime, Shevardnadze’s activities look rather strange. The Georgian leaders did not protest against the presence of Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone during his meeting with Vladimir Putin in St. Petersburg in late May. At present he demands that Russian peacekeepers leave the conflict zone. Why? Georgian experts note that this fact is connected with serious economic difficulties in Georgia. Eteri Kakabadze, a journalist of Nezavisimaya Gazeta, said that Georgia will probably have to cut its budget. The Abkhazian problem is a certain “lighting rod” for citizens dissatisfied with the government’s performance.
It is possible that this is true. It should be noted that the idea of resuming negotiations over the withdrawal of Russian military bases from Georgia is another lighting rod. As is known, the Georgian Foreign Ministry has sent an official note to Russia regarding this problem.
In the meantime, the restoration of the railroad from Sochi to Tbilisi and Yerevan via Sukhumi would solve Tbilisi’s socio-economic problems. Putin and Shevardnadze reached a corresponding agreement in March but nothing has changed since that time. Tamaz Nadareishvili, head of the Abkhazian parliament in exile, said: “The Sochi agreements have already died… The agreements were not bad. They concerned three issues: Abkhazia’s status as part of Georgia, refugees’ return to the Galskii district, and restoration of the railroad. The latter issues can only be considered after solving the former two. However, Abkhazia refuses to consider these issues.”
The situation is almost desperate. However, this problem must be solved by means of a dialogue. In the meantime however, relations between Georgia and Abkhazia aggravate. For instance, Zurab Samushiya, commander of a Georgian partisan unit operating in Abkhazia, stated that his group would support the Georgian Army if the Georgian leadership decided to use force against Abkhazia. He also stated that partisans support the position of the Abkhazian supreme council in exile on the necessity of solving the problem using force. Zurab Samushiya said: “The position of partisans has not changed over ten years: we do not believe in a peaceful solution.” According to him, “only force can solve the problem, but the Georgian leadership must make a political decision to do this”. He also noted that his unit will not tolerate the restoration of the railroad. He said that partisans are now preparing a summer plan. He said: “Our plan will be realized by September 30, when Sukhumi intends to celebrate the 10th jubilee of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.”
It is hardly likely that statements made by the leader of Georgian partisans are just words. He intends to resume combat operations in Abkhazia. To all appearances, there are prerequisites for this. The Abkhazian Defense Ministry reports that there are over 1,000 armed people in the upper part of the Kodori Gorge; part of these are servicemen of Georgian special units. It is not clear why Georgia deploy this contingent. From the military point of view, the Kodori Gorge is the closest way to Sukhumi for guerrillas.
In other words, the solution to the Georgian-Abkhazian problem has been postponed. War is in the air. Tbilisi’s intention to join NATO and active contacts with the US prompt that the alliance will probably intervene in the situation. This would hurt Russia’s interests. Though it is hardly likely that Moscow will be able to prevent such a scenario.