Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 145

Moscow and Abkhazia yesterday issued closely similar assessments of the talks just held in Geneva toward a settlement of the Abkhazia conflict. The talks were held in the new, UN-sponsored format–established earlier this year–which include the main Western countries as observers alongside the mediator Russia. According to Moscow and Abkhazia, the talks evidenced Georgian-Abkhaz differences over responsibility for the recent fighting, over alleged Georgian “terrorism,” and over the linked issues of readmission of Georgian refugees and economic reconstruction of Abkhazia. Nevertheless, the Russian and Abkhaz sides claimed, the talks were on the whole “positive” in that they enabled Tbilisi and Abkhazia to better understand their mutual grievances and to continue the search for a settlement of the conflict. (Russian agencies, July 28)

The tranquilizing conclusion obscures the stalemate after four years of Russian-mediated negotiations, with no solution in sight. Moscow is interested in perpetuating the “controlled instability” for leverage over Georgia. Russia successfully resisted the inclusion of the Friends of Georgia–led by the United States and Germany–as full members of the negotiating forum. Their observer role does not seem to affect the negotiations in any significant way thus far. The forum’s chairman, Romanian diplomat Liviu Bota, is a holdover from the Boutros-Ghali era as special envoy of the UN General Secretary for the Abkhazia problem. Georgia regards Bota’s record in that post as synonymous with UN passivity toward the assertion of Russian power in Abkhazia.