Russia’s war on Ukraine has all but stopped Moscow’s efforts to fence off the line that separates breakaway South Ossetia from Georgia proper. Conflict parties should use this lull to ease the suffering this decade-long process has inflicted on people living on both sides.
UN General Assembly adopted Georgia’s resolution on rights of internally displaced people and refugees from breakaway regions, while EU welcomed govt’s positive political steps.
Georgia won overwhelming support for UN resolution on breakaway regions. In notable triumph for Georgian diplomacy that underscored Moscow’s growing isolation on global stage, Georgia 8 June secured support of 100 countries for UN General Assembly resolution that, while not legally binding, asserts rights of internally displaced persons and refugees from breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia to return to their homes, emphasising importance of protecting their property rights and condemning any instances of “forced demographic changes”; similar vote in 2008 had secured only 14 votes in favour. Russia, which 8 June said resolution undermined “normalisation in the region”, voted against it alongside nine other states, including Belarus, Syria and Nicaragua; Russian-backed de facto authorities of South Ossetia and Abkhazia 15 June claimed resolution was “another act of repeated political farce”.
Govt took steps aligned with EU accession path. PM Garibashvili 21 June announced he had “clearly confirmed” to European and U.S. partners that ruling Georgian Dream party would not renew attempts to adopt foreign influence bill, which triggered widespread domestic opposition and tensions with Western countries in March. EU 22 June welcomed announcement; it also praised Georgian Dream’s 21 June decision not to pass controversial de-oligarchisation law, and 22 June pardoning of former minister Nika Gvaramia, whom authorities had accused of abuse of power.
This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker and Elissa Jobson talk with Tbilisi-based journalist Joshua Kucera and Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for the South Caucasus Olesya Vartanyan about the March protests in Georgia and what they might spell for the political future of the country.
Georgia, a former Soviet republic that suffered its own Russian invasion in 2008 and Moscow’s destabilising support for its breakaway regions, is treading carefully on the war in Ukraine, fearing that if it upsets the Kremlin, it may be left to face the consequences alone.
As elections draw near, increased tension at the line of separation with South Ossetia has helped put the future of normalisation with Russia in doubt. But whoever wins at the polls should not abandon dialogue, but rather build on it to frankly discuss these problems.
In this testimony before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, Crisis Group expert Olesya Vartanyan analyses the conflict dynamics in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, the breakaway territories from Georgia recognised as independent by Russia, and explains how Washington can promote stability there.
This summer’s protests in Georgia led to changes to the country’s electoral system. But the country’s new Prime Minister, Giorgi Gakharia, is a man protesters wanted ousted from the last government, in which he led the Interior Ministry. In this interview with World Politics Review, Europe & Central Asia Program Director Olga Oliker and Analyst for EU Eastern Neighbourhood Olesya Vartanyan consider what Gakharia’s tenure will bring, and how the parliamentary elections next year might play out in this atmosphere.
Informal trade is increasing between Georgia and the breakaway territories of South Ossetia and Abkhazia, and between Abkhazia and countries outside the region. Trade alone cannot transform the parties’ core political differences. But talks among them on mutually beneficial commerce could open lines of communication long cemented shut.
Renewed fighting in eastern Ukraine is quickly turning into a litmus test of Russia’s intentions in backing Ukrainian separatist rebels, and the real willingness of the West, in particular the United States, to support Kyiv. Fears over Washington’s wavering may also cause positions to harden in the protracted conflicts in Europe’s East, most immediately in Georgia.
Unresolved conflicts and breakaway territories divide five out of six of the European Union’s Eastern Partnership countries, most of them directly backed by the Russian Federation. But a policy of isolating the people living in these conflict regions narrows the road to peace.
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