-------------------- News from Abkhazia --------------------

 Abkhazia says foreign trade up 20.5% in 2007


Sukhum, Republic of Abkhazia's foreign trade reached 4.7 billion Russian rubles ($192 million) in 2007, up 20.5% year-on-year, the province's customs committee said on Thursday.


The committee's chairman, Grigory Yenik, said the figure is lower than expected due to lower-than-planned exports of citrus fruit, wood and timber.


He said Russia's ban on Abkhaz agriculture products has also had a negative effect on trade.


Russia banned agriculture imports from Abkhazia, including citrus fruits, in August last year on sanitary and health grounds.


01.31.28  RIA Novosti


 Kosovo's "inevitable" independence sets important precedent for Transdniestria; others


A leading British conflict resolution experts says that Kosovo's independence is now inevitable. Professor Stefan Wolff also adds that it will set an important precedent for similar conflicts worldwide. But precedent or not, Transdniestria argues it has a better case for independence than Kosovo, according to international law.


PRISTINA (Tiraspol Times) - A leading conflict resolution specialist, whose work is funded by the European Commission and who teaches for the British Ministry of Defense, says that there is no doubt that Kosovo will become independent. He also says that Kosovo's independence will set an important precedent for other states seeking independence or international recognition of their current de facto situation on the ground.


Professor Stefan Wolff, a leading expert at The University of Nottingham, said Kosovo's future is crucial for stability in the Balkans and will set an important precedent for similar conflicts worldwide.


" - Kosovo's independence is inevitable, and this fact, a reality on the ground for almost a decade, must finally be accepted," said Wolff, who is Director of the Centre for International Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution at the University's School of Politics and International Relations.


Unilateral declaration of independence


The government of Kosovo is widely expected to declare independence in the very near future, overriding strong objections from Serbia, which the area is formally a de jure part of. Formally a province of Serbia, Kosovo has been administered by the United Nations since 1999 after a NATO bombing campaign forced the constitutional Serb government to flee the area.


Just like Moldova's position in Transdniestria, Serbia currently has no meaningful government authority over the area and can not exercise any sovereign rights within the territory.


Transdniestria declared independence in 1990, one year before the current Moldova came into existence as an independent republic. While the international community generally recognized Moldova's independence declaration, it has so far failed to do the same for Transdniestria's.


When compared to Kosovo, Transdniestria's president Igor Smirnov has noted that his country - which is officially called Pridnestrovie, according to its constitution - has a stronger legal and historical claim to independent statehood.


" - Pridnestrovie has a better case for independence, according to international law," Smirnov told visiting journalists earlier this month.


No consensual divorce


Kosovo's new government — led by former Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) commander Hashim Thaci — is now expected to declare a permanent parting of the ways from Serbia.


" - The way in which Kosovo gains its independence seems clear. Serbian, and Kosovo Albanian intransigence has made it impossible for a consensual solution to be achieved in negotiations. A new resolution in the Security Council confirming the conditions of Kosovo's independence is equally unlikely because of Russian opposition," said Professor Wolff.


" - Hence, a unilateral declaration of independence by Kosovo will be followed by recognition of Kosovo's independent statehood by the US, the EU and its member states, and by countries organized in the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference."


Kosovo is unlikely to receive universal recognition, putting it in the status of unrecognized or partially recognized states alongside other de facto countries such as Transdniestria, Somaliland, Northern Cyprus, Taiwan and Abkhazia, and other states which function as separate sovereign and independent states despite their limited international recognition and no U.N. membership.


" - Several countries have serious domestic concerns about recognizing Kosovo following a unilateral declaration of independence, among them Romania, Spain, and Slovakia," said Wolff. "The most serious opposition can be expected from Cyprus, fearing that Kosovo would strengthen Turkish Cypriot claims to their own state — despite the fact that Turkish Cypriots accepted the Annan Plan for reunification in 2004, just before Cyprus's accession to the EU, unlike their Greek Cypriot counterparts."


Stefan Wolff specializes in conflict resolution and post-conflict reconstruction in deeply divided and war-torn societies. He supports the doctrine that sometimes self-determination based on a civilized divorce between two sides if the best option rather than forced integration. His work has been funded by the European Commission, the UK Foreign Office, the British Academy, and others.


He is an International Associate of the Liechtenstein Institute on Self-determination at Princeton University. Since 2005 he has also been teaching at the Joint Services Command and Staff College of the Ministry of Defense of the United Kingdom.


01.31.2008  Tiraspol Times


 Abkhazian officials seek support for its recognition


Sukhum, The capital city of Russia, Moscow, hosts senior officials from Abkhazia, a de facto independent country in continual search of international recognition of itself as fully independent, just like Kosovo appears to be in line for international recognition of its independence.


Three senior Abkhazian officials, namely President Sergei Bagapsh, Prime Minister Aleksandr Ankuab and Minister of Finance Beslan Kubrava, have been in Moscow since Saturday.


These three senior Abkhazian officials were stated to be in Moscow for business. However, political analysts tend to think that this official trip will be largely about the implications of a previous statement by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who said just days before the trip that the Russian administration had not revealed any signs of future recognition of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia in retaliation for Kosovo's proclamation of its independence.


For Kristian Bzhania, who is the official conveys the Abkhazian President's messages to the press, the talks between the three senior Abkhazian officials and their counterparts in Moscow are about education, health care and regional development, especially that which concerns the eastern Abkhazia that was worst hit by the '92-'93 war between Georgia and Abkhazia: "The Abkhazian prime minister will himself monitor the stage of work about the regional development," said Bjaniya.


Abkhazia hosted on January 15 and 16 a series of conferences on two separate occasions, the first one of which was about the holiday resorts in Caucasus, and the second one of which was about new methods of architecture that could be made use of in re-structuring the post-war Abkhazia. Members of the Russian Association for Architects also attended these conferences.


01.30.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Georgia's new Ministry of Reintegration deemed a blow to talks


Sukhum, The administration of Abkhazia made its interpretation of the decision by its counterpart in Georgia to change the name of its department that was originally set up to resolve conflicts to read now ‘The Ministry of Reintegration’ and accused Georgia of taking a step toward ending negotiations.


Abkhazia would not be in contact with this newly renamed department of Georgian government, said Sergei Shamba, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, and added that 's move would leave no further chances for negotiations to continue.


"Even if the administration of assumes compliance with the Moscow Agreement of Cease Fire, the Abkhazian government will refuse to maintain contact with officials of this newly renamed department of the Georgian government," said Shamba.


The Georgian administration appointed as the Minister of Reunion Temur Yakobashvili, Vice President of the Georgian Foundation for Strategic and International Studies. Right after his appointment to his new post, Yakobashvili said in his official statement that the Georgian government should not solely be satisfied with a reclaim of its control over Abkhazian soil but it also should win the support from Abkhazians: “ has lost Abkhazia as well as Abkhazians. My government will, I guess, have to take a multidimensional approach. There will be direct contact on my government’s part with both Abkhazians and South Ossetians .”


Renaming this department of Georgian government came as a sign of ’s President Mikheil Saakashvili’s decidedness to keep his election promise to take the over the control of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia in 2008. With the former Georgian official David Bakradze, who was in charge of the renamed department of Georgian government, being appointed now to the post of ’s foreign minister, the Georgian government is soon expected to bring up its issue about Abkhazia and South Ossetia for discussion on an international level.


It was in the July of 2006 when negotiations between the two countries came to a halt after the then Georgian administration acted in violation of the cease fire agreement and located troops in Upper Kodor. The Abkhazian government at that time made it a stipulation for the resumption of talks that should withdraw its troops from Upper Kodor . The United Nations' Security Council also released a call on the Georgian administration to disarm the area. The United Nations' Group of Georgia's Friends stepped in to get officials from both countries afterwards to meet on two separate occasions to talk about whether negotiations could be resumed. The first meeting was held in Genova, on February 12 and 13, while the second one in Bonn on June 28 and 29. Also, David Bakradze, a Georgian official in charge of attempts to resolve conflicts, went to Abkhazia and talked with Shamba in October 2007 about the chances of seven kidnapped Abkhazian guards getting released.


01.29.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Russian Peacekeepers Stay in Abkhazia


The UN Security Council on Wednesday discussed the situation in Abkhazia. The Security Council did not even consider replacing Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone but accepted Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili’s suggestion to overview a peacekeeping process.


UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon released a report shortly before the session to support an idea to overview the peacekeeping process in the conflict zone, which Mikhail Saakashvili proposed at the UN session last fall. The Georgian president also pressed then for the withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers from the zone to replace them with an EU contingent.


Mikhail Saakashvili, however, ditched his hard-line rhetoric after his win at the presidential election. In a news conference at the PACE in Strasbourg last week he said he was no longer considering the idea as valid.


The UN secretary general said in his report that all accusations against CIS peacekeepers proved to be wrong. He also said the resolution of the Kosovo issue may have an influence of developments in Abkhazia. “The Georgian government has made it clear several times that it will be considering the possibility of Russia’s recognizing Abkhazia differently depending to the results of the upcoming discussion of Kosovo’s status.”


Russia’s envoy to the UN Vitaly Churkin followed a recent warming in relations with Georgia and praises “some positive statements” which were voiced in the country after the presidential election.


It is still, however, unclear when and how the peacekeeping process will be overviewed. In any case, the Security Council is meeting in April for a session on Georgia to adopt a resolution to prolong the UN presence in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone.


01.31.2008  Kommersant


 Misrepresentations fanning fears in Georgian-Abkhaz dispute, says Ban Ki-moon


Disinformation and misrepresentations is generating tensions between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in their dispute and the communities on both sides of the ceasefire line should exercise restraint, Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon says in a new report to the Security Council.


While there has been no incident between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides in the past few months, there have been “a string of allegations concerning either the deployment of forces on both sides of the ceasefire line or incidents involving the Abkhaz forces or the CIS [Commonwealth of Independent States] peacekeeping force,” he writes in his latest report on the situation in Abkhazia, Georgia.


He voices concern about the “disconnect” between realities on the ground and media or official statements. As it is, an “image of the enemy” is already pervasive among communities on both sides of the ceasefire line, he writes, warning that “Fanning fear and hostility through misrepresentation will only entrench it further.”


Reliable observers on both sides commented that the relationship between the two sides was last year at its lowest point since the widespread violence of 1998, according to the report.


“The two electoral campaigns that took place in 2007, for the Georgian presidency and the de facto Abkhaz parliament, illustrated once again the deep rift between the political aspirations of the sides and their constituencies, with reunification and independence seen as top, non-negotiable priorities in Tbilisi and Sukhumi, respectively, and promoted with an equal sense of urgency.”


Mr. Ban calls for confidence-building measures to be introduced, on areas including security dialogue, the return of internally displaced persons (IDPs) and refugees and economic rehabilitation, so that momentum can be established towards a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict.


He notes that the UN Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) is working towards this goal and is also hoping to improve its monitoring abilities in the Kodori Valley, where the difficult terrain and security risks make unmanned aerial vehicles the best option.


UNOMIG is developing standard operating procedures for the use of such vehicles so that there can be no possible misuse outside the mandate of the mission – an issue that has been raised, particularly by the Abkhaz side.


As of 1 January, UNOMIG had 133 military observers from 32 countries in place to verify the ceasefire agreement between the Georgian Government and the Abkhaz authorities.


01.25.2008  UN News Service


 Saakashvili’s lied when he promised to return Abkhazian shrines to Georgian Church - Abkhazian Diocese


Sukhum, The recent promise of Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to return Abkhazian shrines to the jurisdiction of the Georgian Orthodox Church was groundless, administrator of the Sukhumi and Abkhazia Diocese priest Vissarion Aplia said.


‘The Abkhazian Church is in no way related to Georgia and the Georgian Church, Saakashvili has no right to declare that the Abkhazian Church will return to Georgia’s fold,’ Fr. Vissarion told an Interfax correspondent on Thursday.


According to the priest, Saakashvili’s promise is ‘a lie and the lie is always punished.’


There are 144 Orthodox churches in Abkhazia, though only 20 of them work.


01.24.2008  Interfax


 Abkhazia says opened fire on Georgian ships, Georgia denies


Sukhum, Abkhazia opened fire on two Georgian naval vessels that entered the Abkhazia's territorial waters, the spokesman for Abkhazia's president said Wednesday, but Georgia denied the incident.


Kristian Bzhania said the ships were detected 4 miles from the Gagida settlement in the Gal District. "In line with orders received, Abkhazia's coastal services opened fire on the vessels after which the Georgian ships left Abkhazia's territorial waters," he said.


Georgia's Navy mainly consists of patrol vessels and landing craft.


Georgia's border police denied the incident. "The information from Abkhazia that Georgian naval vessels were near Abkhazian coast is untrue," spokeswoman Lela Mchedlidze said.


01.23.28  RIA Novosti


 Russia says Kosovo creates precedent for separatists


Moscow, (Reuters) - Independence for the Serbian province of Kosovo would create a precedent which will be used by separatists elsewhere around the world, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Wednesday.


Lavrov told a news conference that Russia had never said Kosovo independence would lead Moscow to recognise Abkhazia and South Ossetia but added:


"The precedent will be created not because we want it but because it will be objectively created ... because justice is an understanding that drives people. If someone is allowed to do something, many others will expect similar treatment."


Russia, along with its close ally Serbia, has long resisted independence for Kosovo, arguing it could set a precedent for Abkhazia and South Ossetia, as well as other disputed regions in the former Soviet Union.


Lavrov said "we need to do everything so that the status of Kosovo is resolved within the framework of international law" rather than assuming independence would come, which he described as "defeatist".


Kosovo independence would set a precedent not just for the disputed Georgian territories but for "200 territories" around the world, he added.


01.23.2008  swissinfo


 Russia has no plans to back independence for Abkhazia, S.Ossetia


Moscow, Russia has never declared its readiness to recognize the sovereignty of ex-Soviet breakaway provinces if Kosovo's independence is declared, Russia's foreign minister said on Wednesday.


"Russia's leadership has never stated that after Kosovo we would recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Sergei Lavrov told journalists.


"It is deeply ingrained in the minds of many that Russia has a firm position as regards Kosovo, warning that this will be a precedent, while hoping in its heart of hearts that this will happen in order to follow it up with a recognition [of the independence] of all and sundry in the neighborhood," he said, adding that "nothing could be further from a true understanding of Russia's stance."


He also said Russia, which has had its own separatist problems, most notably in the Chechen Republic, was interested in maintaining stability and preventing separatist trends and violations of international law.


However, Lavrov went on, "A precedent will be created not because we want it but because it will be objectively created ... If someone is permitted to do something, many others will expect similar treatment."


Russia has long been against any unilateral declaration of Kosovo's independence, a position its envoy to the troika of international mediators on Kosovo reiterated last December in one of many recent Russian comments making clear the country's opposition.


"A unilateral declaration of independence would be in breach of UN Security Council Resolution 1244. In this event, Russia would demand a revocation and nullification of the decision," Alexander Botsan-Kharchenko said.


Voices in Russia's State Duma, the country's lower house of parliament, are now calling for recognition of the sovereignty of Abkhazia and South Ossetia if Kosovo is recognized as independent by the international community.


Abkhazia and South Ossetia are de facto independent republics striving to split from the ex-Soviet republic of Georgia and join Russia.


"If this [recognition of Kosovo's independence] happens, we will have to recognize the independence of Abkhazia and South Ossetia," a Just Russia MP said on Wednesday.


The Albanian-dominated Serbian province of Kosovo has been a UN protectorate since the NATO bombing of the former Yugoslavia ended a conflict between Albanian and Serb forces in 1999.


Most Western states back the volatile area's drive for independence, and recently agreed that Kosovo's status would be determined by the European Union and NATO. Russia insists that Belgrade and Pristina continue to seek a compromise.


Kosovo's recently elected prime minister, Hashim Thaci, earlier said Pristina's independence was an accomplished fact and would be declared as soon as the United States and the European Union were ready to recognize it.


01.23.28  RIA Novosti


 Russia warns Kosovo independence could set dangerous precedent


Russia has warned that if, as expected, Kosovo achieves its independence from Serbia, it will encourage separatists across the world. Moscow is a close ally of Serbia and both strongly oppose Kosovo's plans to unilaterally declare independence within months.


Alluding to pro-Russian separatist movements in Georgia, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said: "It will set a precedent for several territories, not only Abkhazia and South Ossetia, but - according to our figures - for some 200 regions in states around the world. If we allow someone to do something, many others will expect the same treatment."


Belgrade wants to hold on to what it sees as an important part of Serbian cultural heritage. But ethnic Albanians, who make up around 90 per cent of the province's population, have long been waiting for independence.


Kosovo's Prime Minister Hashim Thaci assures them the wait will soon be over. "We'll proclaim our independence as soon as possible. Everything that we will do, we'll do through our close cooperation and coordination with our partners Washington and Brussels," he said.


Washington and Brussels back Kosovo's plans, although some EU countries have voiced concerns. The EU has proposed a 1,800-strong force to replace the UN mission that's been in place since 1999.


01.23.2008  EuroNews


 Abkhazia hopes to be locus of Arabic investment


Sukhum, A group of British businessmen of Arabic origin was in Abkhazia last week to search for possible opportunities to do business there.


Nadhmi Auchi, who first set up the General Mediterranean Holding and later has begun presiding over the Anglo-Arabic Organization, and members of his immediate entourage met with Sergei Bagapsh, President of Abkhazia.


The meeting was largely about a conveyance of information from the president to the British businessmen both about the current political as well as economic side to Abkhazia and its chances to attract foreign investment.


Whereas Mr. Auchi expressed concern for trouble with the denial of international recognition to Abkhazia, he said this would not stop his group from investing in the country.


"My group has high hopes of making huge amounts of investment in this small, lovely country. General Mediterranean already has its investments in several other countries. It now seeks to include Abkhazia in its list of countries to pour money into. We are just strict with our principle that cooperation should bring out mutual benefit. Therefore, Abkhazia's compliance with this principle would return it a tangible inflow of money."


Mr. Auchi also expressed willingness to make contacts with Arabs as well as Europeans in a bid to help Abkhazia earn international recognition.


Mr. Auchi also met with Parliament Speaker Nugzar Ashuba. Mr. Ashuba was pleased to meet with Mr. Auchi and his friends. "We will prioritize our national interests when we try attracting foreign investment. The British group was briefed about how our legal system works. And this group had also its evaluation of Abkhazia well before it came to the country."


Mr. Auchi is a billionaire who is the Chief Executive Officer of General Mediterranean, based in . His holding contains 100 companies across the world with business activities in several sectors, like media, holiday resorts, energy, etc. Mr. Auchi is also the owner of ANB, a London-based satellite television company.


01.22.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Balkans Tie Russia and Georgia Tights - The Price of the Question


Plagiarizing Pushkin I’d say: “A shadow of Lavrov fell over the hills of Georgia”. The shadow fell on the occasion of the inauguration of President Saakashvili. Mind your, it was Lavrov’s shadow, not that of Medvedev, for example. The Russian foreign minister came to Georgia to have a look at the second edition of the Georgian chieftain.


Apart from protocol courtesies it was also important because Saakashvili won the poll even without the run-off, and, second, he secured 72.5 percent of the vote to support Georgia’s bid to join NATO. Also, he said Georgia needs to mend the tattered relations with Russia, which may mean that the anti-Russian rhetoric in Tbilisi will wane.


Mikhail Saakashvili may be pushed to it by another situation. Georgia elected the old president while Russia will soon see a new leader coming to power although he is stigmatized by the idea of succession. Dmitry Medvedev has been largely unseen in the field of foreign policy, and his voice was not heard in critical moments of the Russian-Georgian stand-off. In addition, relations between the country have already hit such a low that there is no way deeper underground.


But we should not expect fast progress right now. You can’t start from the clean slate. Even some of the writings on it are hard to rub off. Neither the Abkhazian nor the South Ossetian issue is not going to evaporate in a moment if they are ever going to be resolved. What is more, Russia and Georgia are in for another trial – that of Kosovo. Everyone knows that Kosovo’s independence will be recognized sooner or later. It is just a question of time.


If we follow Moscow’s diplomatic logic, the recognition of Kosovo will open the door for the recognition of independent Abkhazia. This could be contested casually, but it is way too late to try to explain to Russian and Abkhazian societies why one is allowed to some and prohibited for the others.


Moscow will be trapped once the Kosovo issue is resolved. Recognizing Abkhazia’s sovereignty is impossible at least because this will create a precedent and set an example to other restive territories in the former Soviet republics – not only for Nagorno-Karabakh. Not recognizing Abkhazia will also be fraught with negative consequences. Moscow in this case will show that its foreign policy is not worth much, and it will look weak in the eyes of peoples of the North Caucasus where losers are not respected – and by the way, politicians have re-appeared there who are ready to send volunteers to fight for Abkhazia. I suppose Russian guests will also have to discuss this issue in Tbilisi.


Sergey Lavrov’s mission is not an easy one. All the more, no one in Tbilisi is really pro-Russian. But let’s keep in mind that there are two parties in Russian-Georgian relations. It is important as ever now how the Kremlin is going to react. Is Moscow going to be ready to give up at least an inch of its stringent course, or does it see no difference between Saakashvili 1 and Saakashvili 2?


Alexey Malashenko, expert at the Moscow Carnegie Center


01.21.2008  Kommersant


 A detailed atlas of Abkhazia now available


Sukhum, A new atlas that has in it both physical and geographical maps of Abkhazia is now available.


The atlas was published by the Cartography and General Geography Department of the Abkhazian Department. It is the first step towards making a detailed map of Abkhazia available. The atlas contains a total of 70 maps, some of which are physical and some are georaphical. The maps have notes by Levard Bartsyts, Head of the Abkhazian Department of Geography. A map of this kind is important to have because it delimits the boundaries of Abkhazia as a country of the north-western Caucasus.


01.17.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Abkhazia sees no future in talks with Georgia's Saakashvili


With Saakashvili in power in Georgia, a Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue has no future. That is the opinion of Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh. The opposition says elections in Georgia were rigged, but for Bagapsh they were merely "elections in a neighboring state".


Sukhum, Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh believes that any talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili have little chance of achieving a breakthrough, Interfax reported Monday.


" - If another president had been elected, it could have been possible to resume dialogue with Georgia, but not on Abkhazia's political status. Any talks with Saakashvili in the current situation have no future," says Sergei Bagapsh, commenting on the officially announced victory of Mikheil Saakashvili in the Georgian snap presidential elections.


Although the election was marred with irregularities, leading Western officials, including spokesmen for NATO and the OSCE (Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe) quickly recognized Saakashvili's re-election.


The opposition claims it has evidence of fraud that invalidated up to 100,000 votes. Independent NGOs have compiled 450 instances of vote rigging throughout the country. If tallied correctly, the voters would have forced Mikheil Saakashvili into a second round, opening the door for a united opposition campaign and his potential loss of the presidency.


Election fraud, voter intimidation in Georgia


Independent journalists and human rights campaigners in Georgia say that the election campaign was fraught with abuse as the government sought to keep Saakashvili in power despite widespread voter rejection.


Saakashvili’s popular support has collapsed, after he received the Soviet-like result of 96 percent of the vote in uncontested elections in 2004.


The Georgian leader's time in power has been filled with controversy and lowering living standards. According to the International Monetary Fund, poverty levels remain at about 30 percent and unemployment is increasing. Distrust in the judiciary has soared from 36 percent of respondents in 2004 to 62 percent in 2006.


Opposition demands for reform have been met with heavyhanded responses from Saakashvili's government. According to a Human Rights Watch report with the title Crossing the Line, some 50,000 demonstrators were peacefully calling for elections and the release of political prisoners. Demands were made for Saakashvili to resign. In response, the police and army used “violent and excessive force” involving tear gas, water cannons and rubber bullets against fleeing protesters that resulted in hundreds of people requiring hospital treatment. The government forces then attacked the private-owned Imedi TV station, beat up journalists and smashed up their broadcasting equipment so extensively that it took more than a month and well into the election campaign before the TV station could begin transmissions again.


Russia questions OSCE double standards


The Western powers’ rush to legitimise the election result and declare Saakashvili victorious was in marked contrast to the bitter attacks made on the Russian parliamentary elections held on December 2 when the leader of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Parliamentary Assembly, Göran Lennmarker, unilaterally declared that “It was not a fair election.”


This time, the chief of the OSCE electoral monitoring mission in Georgia, US congressman Alcee Hastings, did not even wait for the polling to finish before declaring—on the morning of January 5—that democracy had taken a triumphant step in Georgia and that “by virtue of hard competition during the election campaign, I think, these elections were the choice of the Georgian nation.”


In contrast, the Russian Foreign Ministry condemned Hastings’s “premature” and “superficial” remarks about “the triumph of Georgian democracy” and stated that the election campaign was not “free and fair.” It claimed that the media, non-governmental organizations and opposition figures had reported numerous cases of violations of the electoral laws by the state and that “the presidential race was marked by the widespread use of administrative resources, open pressure on opposition candidates and severe limitations on their access to financial and media sources.” The Foreign Ministry statement reminded its readers that the election campaign “was actually launched against the background of a state of emergency” - something which the West condemned when Pakistan's president recently toyed with the idea of doing the same.


Abkhazia: Elections took place in another country


In Abkhazia, the proof of fraud in Georgia's election has little effect. Whether or not there the widespread vote rigging took place, Abkhazia remains unaffected, its President says.


" - The elections in Georgia mean nothing to Abkhazia. These were elections in a neighboring state," Bagapsh told Interfax.


Like Pridnestrovie, Abkhazia seeks international recognition of its 'de facto' independence. All eyes are on its own future as an independent, sovereign country and it has little interest in the domestic politics of Georgia.


With Kosovo inching closer to independence, Abkhazia has announced that it sees Kosovo as a precedent. It rejects double standards which attempt to rally support for Kosovo's independence while rejecting the same right to Abkhazia. Others have pointed out that such a policy of double standards will not work in the long run. In an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune with the title "Let's Get Real", America's Future Foundation and German Council on Foreign Relations scholars Anatol Lieven and John Hulsman focused on the need for a realistic approach to the issue of frozen conflicts on the territory of the former Soviet Union. The co-authors of the book "Ethical Realism: A Vision for America's Role in the World" called for a major initiative to permanently resolve the conflict over the disputed regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Lieven and Hulsman asked why the West maintains double standards about self-determination for NATO-hosting Kosovo but not for areas like Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


More hope in Moldova / Pridnestrovie situation


Although chilly, relations between Moldova and Pridnestrovie are not as bad as those between Georgia and Abkhazia. In the case of Pridnestrovie, which is also known under the name Transdniestria, its President Igor Smirnov has recently expressed a willingness to renew status settlement talks with Moldova. In the case of Moldova, its President Vladimir Voronin also wants to restart the talks.


Pridnestrovie has asked that Moldova respects agreements that the two sides signed in 1997, 2001 and 2003. Pridnestrovie also wants Moldova to refrain from using pressure tactics, such as threats of economic or military pressure.


" - If we can agree to sit down and talk as grown-ups, without any sort of pressure and in a discussion of equals, then there is hope that we can reach an understanding on a number of items," says Smirnov. "But of course, Moldova has to honor the agreements that it signed in previous talks. Otherwise, what is the point of starting a new round if the earlier achievements are no longer worth the paper that they are written on," asks President Smirnov.


01.16.2008  Tiraspol Times


 Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue under Saakashvili has no future - Bagapsh


Sukhum, President of the republic of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh thinks that any talks with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili have little chance of achieving a breakthrough.


"The elections in Georgia mean nothing to Abkhazia. These were elections in a neighboring state," Bagapsh told Interfax on Sunday, commenting on the officially announced victory of Mikheil Saakashvili in the Georgian snap presidential elections.


"If another president had been elected, it could have been possible to resume dialogue with Georgia, but not on Abkhazia's political status. Any talks with Saakashvili in the current situation have no future," the Abkhaz leader said.


01.13.2008  Interfax


 Abkhazia to have officials to represent itself in North Cyprus


Sukhum, Maksim Gunjia, Deputy Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, was in the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, or TRNC, between January 5 and 8, 2008, to reinforce his administration's efforts to make contacts with diplomats of the countries, including TRNC as well, that have not got official recognition from the United Nations yet. The administration of Abkhazia has it as its goal to have a body of officials to represent itself in the TRNC.


The Abkhazian official’s visit to the TRNC will be followed by other official trips to Taiwan and Somaliland.


Gunjia said in his statement released on Wednesday that his administration aimed both at improving its relations with North Cyprus and making contacts with representatives of both the Abkhazian Diaspora as well as of the government there. "Cyprus currently hosts as many as 500 Abkhazians who are the sons and daughters of former immigrants from Abkhazia who had to leave the home country after a war broke out between Russia and Caucasus. My administration is seeking ways to improve its economic as well as cultural relations with the TRNC, because both countries have many things in common to share."


Gunjia spoke of future visits to Taiwan and Somaliland as well when he stressed the very thing all those four countries share in common about universal recognition of their independence.


The administration of Abkhazia currently maintains diplomatic relations with both South Ossetia and Transdinester--both are 'de facto' independent. South Ossetia is following in the footsteps of Abkhazia in its efforts to separate from Georgia on the one hand, and Transdinyester from Moldavia on the other.


Taiwan, an East Asian island, south of both China and Japan, and north of Philippines, is a country yet without its officially announced independence. While a group of Taiwanese nationalists founded Taiwan as the Republic of China in 1949 when they fled from the communist regime in China, Taiwan could not stop in 1979 China from replacing its place at the United Nations. The administration of China views Taiwan as its part, with a different regime though. Also, the Chinese administration threats Taiwan with a move to occupy it if the government of Taiwan ever attempts to announce its independence.


Somaliland is a country of 137,000 square meters situated in the Horn of Africa that announced its independence in 1991 from Somali. The people of this country claim to have owned, before Somali's gain of its own independence, the British Somaliland, the Guld of Aden, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.


01.10.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Georgian opposition angry at electoral forgery


Tbilisi, Leaders of the Georgian opposition voiced anger at Levan Tarkhnishvili, Head of the Central Committee of Election, on accusations against letting embezzlement and infraction of rules occur through the January 5 presidential elections in Georgia.


Levan Gachechiladze, who is leading the United Opposition Movement, made his way into Tarkhnishvili's office and pressed Tarkhnishvili for resignation. "At least 500,000 votes that went to me just disappeared," said Gachechiladze when he argued that the elections were cheated. After Gachechiladze accused Tarhinishvili of compromising on the election cheat, he asked Tarhinisvili the question of why the Georgian people were barred from knowing the actual results.


Gachechiladze vowed to go on a hunger strike to protest the election outcome. "I will keep fighting until Mikheil Saakashvili and Nino Burjanadze kill me," he said. Gachechiladze was reported to be accompanied by some leading members of the United Opposition when he was in Tarkhnishvili's office. Tarkhnishvili turned down the demand for his resignation because he said that he had been appointed to his post not by the opposition but by the parliament.


Tarkhnishvili called on the opposition leaders to leave his office. Giorgi Tortladze, another opposition leader, said that he had two different versions of the election result from one same region. Tina Hidasheli, who is leading the opposition Republican Party, said that the votes that went to Mikheil Saakashvili were forged. Salome Zurabishvili, head of the Georgian Path Party and former Foreign Minister, said that the opposition would succeed in documenting proof for forgery in the elections and get the second stage of elections done.


Former President of Georgia Mikheil Saakashvili won 52 percent of the votes on January 5.


01.08.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Georgia's presidential candidates count on Abkhazia and S. Ossetia for success


Tbilisi, Almost all presidential candidates of Georgia appear to rely heavily for success on Abkhazia and South Ossetia as the two primary elements of their campaign vows while they run for the January 5 elections.


The oath to take over the administrative control of both of the two 'de facto' independent countries came from all presidential candidates of Georgia.


Mikheil Saakashvili, former President of Georgia, was nominated by the ruling National Unity Movement as the presidential candidate. He vowed during the days of 'The Revolution of Roses' in late 2003 when he ran for the presidency to bring both Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under the governmental control of Georgia. He pronounced his same oath of election again before the January 5 presidential elections, with the primary significance attached to it this time.


Levan Gacheciladze, who will stand in the presidential elections as the opposition candidate, promised to develop a peaceful attitude towards the issue at hand as long as he was supported by Russia as well as by the international community to do so. Gacheciladze also stressed the need for the presence of a direct dialogue between Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Georgi Maisashvili, who is heading the Party of Future, is thinking along the lines of Gachechiladze in stressing the need on the part of Georgia to seek cooperation on friendly terms with Russia before it deals with the question of Abkhazia as well as South Ossetia, because Georgia can achieve to have a dialogue with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia only after it can develop a relationship on friendly terms with Russia.


Shalva Natelashvili, who was fielded by the Labour Party as the presidential candidate, vowed to improve in the first place his country's relations with both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. His choice of this method for solving the problem in question was similar to that of both Gacheciladze and Maisahvili: Georgia primarily has to improve its relations with Russia and then to seek a way of taking over the governmental control of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


01.03.2008  Agency Caucasus


 Abkhazia eyes Kosovo


Sukhum, While Georgia is going through a very tough period on its way to the January 5 presidential elections, Abkhazia has already turned eyes to Kosovo, which is expected to announce its independence from Serbia soon.


Abkhazia is one of the countries that experiences immediate effects of whatever happens across the Balkans. It is looking forward to being internationally recognized just as Kosovo has recently gained such recognition from both the United States and the European Union. The administration of Sukhum, capital city of Abkhazia, maintains high hopes even though Russia fears that its possible recognition of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries will first cause trouble in the future, second encourage the seven other North Caucasian republics to separate from the federation, and third lead to the loss of the whole region after hundreds of years of bloody wars and exiles.


Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh said: "While Kosovo is located at the very heart of Serbia, Abkhazia is already an entirely independent country. It was one of the republics that made up the Soviet Union; however, it was later forced to become part of Georgia through the efforts of both Joseph Stalin and Lavrenty Beria, who was then Chief Secret Police Officer as well as Secretary General of the Communist Party of Georgia."


"The United States put it clearly that it would recognize Kosovo. This will set an example for us. We expect Russia to recognize Abkhazia," Sergei Bagapsh, Foreign Minister of Abkhazia, told exclusively AFP.


The Abkhazian people maintain a similar expectation, as well. Svetlana Adleyiba, who is living in Sukhum, said that a possible recognition of Kosovo as an independent state will give us the chance to get world-wide recognition and to lead a better life.


There is also a widespread rumor that when Russia recognizes Abkhazia, it will then possibly create a Domino effect and prompt Georgia to recognize Chechnya and other countries will do the same thing for others as well.


Mikheil Saakashvili, who resigned as Georgia's president to be legally able to run again in the elections, vowed openly to take control  in 2008 over both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. It is, however, worth asking how Saakashvili, whose words remind the 1992 extremely nationalist Georgian administration, will manage to do so when Abkhazia's chances for international recognition are high.


01.03.2008    Agency Caucasus