Russia's preferential treatment of the separatist-minded Georgian regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia is stoking renewed tension between Moscow and Tbilisi. This latest round of the long-running bilateral row has caused further erosion to Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's domestic image at a time when the country is preparing for pivotal elections in late 2003.
A hostage crisis in Georgia ended March 20 with the release of four CIS peacekeeping troops by Georgian guerrillas operating in the separatist region of Abkhazia. The incident is helping to refocus international attention on the issue of separatism in Georgia.
Reaction to a new UN Security Council resolution on achieving a political settlement of the Abkhazia question in Georgia has ranged from indifferent to scornful. Few expect it to achieve its stated aim of invigorating a political settlement.
In a report to the United Nations Security Council, Secretary-General Kofi Annan described the downing of a UN helicopter in Abkhazia as "an outrage." He went on to question the feasibility of achieving a political solution to the Abkhazia question. But Annan's report, coming more than three weeks after the helicopter assault, could well be lost in the swirl of internal chaos in Georgia.
The fallout from the September 11 terrorist attacks is spreading to the Caucasus. After years of uneasy peace, Georgia and Abkhazian separatists are mobilizing to resume their bitter conflict. Georgian officials are accusing Russia of fomenting unrest, and President Eduard Shevardnadze is considering pulling Georgia out of the Commonwealth of Independent States.
With stability in Georgia becoming increasingly fragile, the United Nations is opening a new diplomatic drive to resolve Abkhazia's political status. The UN Security Council on July 31 extended the UN peacekeeping mandate following a report by UN Secretary General Kofi Annan containing recommendations on rejuvenating stalled peace talks.
In the days and weeks leading up to Georgia's presidential election back in April, President Eduard Shevardnadze pledged to bring about political solutions to conflicts in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Since winning reelection, Shevardnadze has followed through on his campaign promise.