06 October 2009

Abkhazia Conflict Worsens As Russia Escorts Freight Vessels  

Georgian Conflict Tensions Rise After Ships Seizure

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CAUCASUS – Once again the simmering political cauldron in the disputed regions appear to be boiling up with Russia’s announcement this week that they are to escort freighters en route to Abkhazia, the Georgian breakaway state.

After the Handy Shipping Guide report last month on the escalation of the conflict after the seizure by Georgia of the MV “Buket” a Turkish owned tanker, there have been several unconfirmed reports of the detention of further vessels. Russia has now confirmed that she will supply patrol craft and armed warships to patrol the waters off the Abkhazian coast and accompany cargo ships headed for the region with supplies.

The Russian are reported to be constructing the infrastructure they require to support their vessels in the Abkhazian port of Ochamchira, under the terms of the agreement signed between the two last year when Russia formally recognised both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states.

In a polarisation of their position Russia are apparently preparing to issue Abkhaz citizens with passports “within one or two months.” This after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton stated recently the US would work with other countries to ensure the small state would remain a dominion of Georgia and not be recognised by any nation, other than those (Russia, Nicaragua and Venezuela) who had agreed to the split.

After hearing that Russia intended to build up its forces in the area a statement from the US Department of State said,

“This action contravenes Russia’s commitments under the August 12 ceasefire agreement brokered by French President Nicolas Sarkozy between Russia and Georgia, and violates Georgia’s territorial integrity.

“We call on Russia to honour its commitments under the August 12 and September 8 ceasefire agreements. This includes removing its troops to positions held prior to the start of the conflict, allowing unfettered humanitarian access, and allowing human rights organizations to investigate allegations of ethnic cleansing.”

Whilst on a visit to Abkhazia Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov responded,

"If our U.S. partners are set on preventing the recognition of Abkhazia's independence, we will resist attempts to impose opinions on sovereign states,"

Russia vetoed a UN vote to allow observers into the country earlier this year unless the mandate referred to South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states.

In a further twist Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko is reported to have said last week that the $500 million promised to his country was being used as a bargaining chip to obtain his country’s recognition of the two ex Georgian states.

He slated the Russian controlled media and said the whole matter would be settled in time but that he would not recognise a country for money.

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