- Abkhazia by John Colarusso
- The Stalin-Beria Terror in Abkhazia, 1936-1953, by Stephen D. Shenfield
- The International Legal Status of the Republic of Abkhazia In the Light of International Law, by Viacheslav Chirikba
- Why Can Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili Not Emulate Willi Brandt? by Liz Fuller
- Commentary on the Resolution of the European Parliament for Georgia, 17 November 2011
- Kosovo or Abkhazia: Contrasts and Comparisons
- International law and the Russian “occupation” of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, by Richard Berge
- 'Absence of Will': A commentary, prepared by Metin Sönmez
- Documents from the KGB archive in Sukhum. Abkhazia in the Stalin years, by Rachel Clogg
- On the 20th anniversary of the start of Georgia’s war against Abkhazia, by Stanislav Lakoba
- Military Aspects of the War. The Battle for Gagra (The Turning-point), by Dodge Billingsley
- Alleged human rights violations during the conflict in Abkhazia | Amnesty International, 1993
- A reply to Paul Henze’s views on Georgia, by George Hewitt - February 1993
- Ossetia-Georgia-Russia-U.S.A. Towards a Second Cold War?, by Noam Chomsky
- Thinking the Unthinkable: What if Georgia and the West Were to Recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia? by Paul Goble
- A Chance to Join the World, by Neal Ascherson
- Hitler calls on Georgians to win back Abkhazia
- Opinion: Hottentot morality - Uri Avnery
- Abkhazia: A Broken Paradise, by Georgi Derluguian
- Baron Pyotr Karlovich Uslar: Inventor of the First Abkhaz Alphabet, by Stephen D. Shenfield
- Lesson to the West: Abkhazian independence is a fact, by Inal Khashig
- Abkhazia, from conflict to statehood, by George Hewitt
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|Abkhazia, from conflict to statehood, by George Hewitt|
|Headlines - Headlines|
|Tuesday, 17 July 2012 09:15|
A bitter post-Soviet war in 1992-93 saw the Black Sea territory of Abkhazia resist invasion from Georgia and establish an independent statehood. But amid non-recognition from all but a handful of countries, and persistent hostility from Georgia, the young republic has faced many challenges in the subsequent two decades. The leading scholar of Abkhazia and advocate of its case, George Hewitt, presents an overview of these twenty years and outlines a scenario for the future.
The small republic of Abkhazia that abuts the north-eastern coast of the Black Sea was forged out of the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1990-91 and war with its neighbour Georgia in 1992-93. That war had started on 14 August 1992 when rag-tag if brutal militias, nominally under the control of Georgia's president Eduard Shevardnadze, crossed the River Ingur, which since the end of the 17th century had formed the border between Abkhazia and Georgia; it effectively came to an end on 30 September 1993 when the last of Tbilisi's incompetent forces were driven from Abkhazian territory by the same route. The upper K’odor valley remained in Georgian hands, but this was recovered by Abkhazian forces in a bloodless operation in August 2008 against the backdrop of Georgia's crushing defeat in the short war with Russia over South Ossetia.
Abkhazians had lived for seven decades inside the Soviet Union, in successive forms of constitutional association with Georgia which had in their eyes permitted an increasing erosion of their autonomy and rights. In March 1990, amid the nationalist mobilisations of 1989-90 that foretold the Soviet Union's demise, the government in Tbilisi, Georgia's capital, annulled all Soviet legislation pertaining to Georgia. It simultaneously decided to restore the independent status the country had enjoyed in 1918-21, when it was ruled by local Mensheviks (so-called social democrats); this status had been codified in a 1921 constitution, which however was never promulgated.
This crucial decision was compounded when in March 1992 the international community recognised Georgia within its Soviet boundaries (i.e. including Abkhazia), but without any guarantee of Abkhazia's own status or autonomy. Eduard Shevardnadze, who had served as Soviet foreign minister under Mikhail Gorbachev during the glasnost and perestroika years, had returned from his Moscow retirement in March 1992 to try to restore order out of the violent chaos that was engulfing his homeland. The major states, anxious to bolster their friend's authority, paid little heed to what for them were constitutional niceties - but which for the Abkhazians were literally a matter of life-or-death.
The pivotal year
* elections in Georgia were scheduled for October 1992, when the country’s electorate were to have an opportunity to express their opinion and deliver the mandate the new authorities still lacked; but in the event, Shevardnadze's regime gained all the credibility and legitimacy it needed by being recognised, and admitted to international organisations, even before the elections. Within two weeks of Georgia's entry to the United Nations on 31 July 1992, Shevardnadze’s troops crossed the Ingur River.
The unsettled post-war
It became public knowledge that these organisations enjoyed backing from Georgian officialdom; the Georgian journalist Ak’ak’i Mikadze (writing in the Russian-language Vremja on 3 June 1998) even stated the amount of funds being paid to Shengelia and his partisans by Georgia’s internal-affairs and state-security ministries. There was an eruption of full-scale fighting in villages close to the Ingur border in May 1998, when a speedy Abkhazian muster blocked the attempted incursion; and forty deaths occurred on October 2001 when a group of Chechens under Ruslan Gelaev, who had been ferried across from eastern Georgia’s P’ank’isi gorge (undoubtedly with official support) attempted to break out of the upper K’odor valley. Nine of those killed were the passengers and crew of a UN helicopter shot down over the Georgian-controlled part of the valley on 8 October.
This was the last major incident to threaten Abkhazia while Shevardnadze remained at the helm in Tbilisi. He was replaced in late 2003, as a result of yet another unconstitutional ousting - known as the "rose revolution" - by his former protégé, Mikheil (Misha) Saak’ashvili, who following his electoral victory was inaugurated as Georgia's new president in January 2004.
Saak’ashvili, far from removing the force, set about investing heavily in the area his troops had occupied: asphalting the main road, laying a small airstrip in the village of Chkhalta, and opening a branch of Zugdidi Bank (including an ATM) in the village of Azhara. All this was aimed at making what he restyled "Upper Abkhazia" into something of a showpiece to contrast with the straitened socio-economic situation existing in the rest of Abkhazia. The appearance of troops so close (albeit via a road that was/is difficult to traverse) to the Abkhazian capital just as the tourist-season was getting underway resulted in relatively few visitors daring to holiday in Sukhum itself, though the northern resorts (Pitsunda, Gagra, New Athos) did not really suffer a decline in numbers.
The five-day war
The Georgia vs Abkhazia / South Ossetia stand-off remained more or less stable, with occasional heightening of tension, until 2008. A number of events began to unsettle the situation. The eventual recognition of Kosovo by many western states, which had been anticipated in 2007 - and whose implications for Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) were the subject of much speculation in mid-2007 in Sukhum - caused huge resentment in Serbia’s ally, Russia.
The Abkhazians knew, and conveyed the fact, that Abkhazia might come under attack in spring 2008. In fact, the late Ronald Asmus, an ardent supporter of Saak’ashvili and Georgia’s entry into Nato, confirmed in his 2010 excursus on the events of August 2008 that such a plan had existed; indeed, it is clear from this work that Condoleezza Rice’s under-secretary for Transcaucasia, Matthew Bryza, the European Union’s representative for the region, Peter Semneby, and the Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, were all fully aware of it. No assault occurred; but in May, a special Russian military contingent arrived in Abkhazia to upgrade the railtrack from Sukhum through Ochamchira and onwards to Gal, near the Georgian border; this had lain mostly idle since 1993.
Abkhazians wondered what the fighting in and around South Ossetia, in which Russia became heavily involved within a matter of hours, portended for them. There was no doubt in anybody’s mind that a Georgian victory would be swiftly followed by a parallel operation against their republic. And so, at the weekend, Bagapsh ordered a general mobilisation for Monday morning, 11 August. It was decided that now was the time to eject the Georgian military presence from the K’odor valley, which was softened up by bombing in advance of the Abkhazian infantry’s ascent early on Tuesday 12 August.
Meanwhile, all military personnel, along with most of the local (Svan) residents, had hastily abandoned the upper K’odor valley, fleeing into neighbouring Svanetia. It came as a tremendous surprise (but welcome relief) to the Abkhazians to find the valley deserted. Mines had, however, been left at strategic points, and these had to be defused. The large amount of ordnance that the Georgians had stored there (for what purpose has never been revealed) was transported down to Sukhum and briefly put on display; its speedy removal from public view was rumoured to have been as a result of a request from the United States, embarrassed by some of the exhibits on display.
The Russian question
It was a time of euphoria, similar to the end of the 1992-93 war; there was expectation that the path was now open for Abkhazia to proceed to full membership of the international community. Nicaragua granted recognition on 5 September, and established diplomatic relations on 10 September, a day after Russia took this additional step, but the majority opinion throughout the world was as unyielding as it had been hitherto: the principle that (Soviet) Georgia’s frontiers are inviolable has to be upheld, and recognition of the secessionist states is deemed illegitimate. Thus, the mood of ecstasy dissipated, as reality began to dawn.
A further set of accords was signed in March 2009, whereby Abkhazia was promised $68 million from the federal Russian budget. The management and upgrading of Abkhazia’s railways and airport were signed over to Russia for ten years in exchange for loans and investments; moreover, Russia was also granted oil-exploration rights in the Black Sea for five years. Then, on 31 March 2009, Russia was granted powers to protect Abkhazia’s border and guard its coastal waters. Russia’s federal security service (FSB) was to set up a border-control administration along the frontier with Georgia; assistance would be offered to the republics for training specialists in border-control, though in compensation Abkhazia was to provide the administration with premises, airspace and landing-fields. The agreements were to remain effective only until Abkhazia was in a position to form its own border-control bodies.
Stanislav Lakoba is a professional historian who had headed Abkhazia’s security council since the rerun of the contentious presidential election in January 2005. Soon after recognition, he intimated that, given Abkhazia’s new status, it was no longer appropriate for the UN Observer Mission there to retain the words "in Georgia" in its title insofar as its operation within Abkhazia was concerned. He had evidently discussed this with the head of the mission, who foresaw no change. Lakoba’s response was to the point: "In that case, the mission will be told to leave Abkhazia!"
The Georgian reaction to recognition was to formulate a draft law, the final version of which was signed off by Saak’ashvili on 31 October 2009, to impose notional restrictions on various activities within the so-called "occupied territories". The Council of Europe’s Venice commission criticised aspects of the content, and a modest amendment was introduced in February 2010 lifting Georgian objections to the direct delivery of humanitarian assistance.
For a short time in the mid-1990s a little passenger-ferry ran between the ports of Sukhum and Trabzon in Turkey. It had been hoped to reopen this route in the wake of recognition, but so far these hopes have not been realised. Though freight has continued to be shipped, Georgia has regularly impounded vessels plying the route and confiscated their cargoes; between 1991-2003, forty Turkish vessels were seized, followed by a further twenty-two in 2004-06.
The democratic test
A particularly vocal section of the opposition subsequently focused on two questions: how many of Abkhazia’s remaining Kartvelian (predominantly Mingrelian) population should have voting rights in 2009, and could Abkhazia even afford to tolerate any large-scale Kartvelian presence on its territory? It argued against the common view that the bulk of the Mingrelians in the Gal district had not participated in the 1992-93 war, and claimed that more had actually taken up weapons against the Abkhazians than was/is generally supposed; such being the case, the question was mooted as to why a community that had harboured fighters should be granted residency rights, let alone be allowed to vote for the president (and/or parliament at the time of parliamentary elections).
Sergej Bagapsh had had a number of meetings in Russia with Vladimir Putin since becoming president in early 2005, though Putin had never allowed photos to be taken. The Russian premier eventually consented to a flying visit to Sukhum on 12 August 2009, and official cameras recorded his laying of a wreath at the war memorial with Bagapsh at his side. There was also film of his extraordinary meeting with a group of oppositionists, headed by Khadzhimba. At his press conference he acknowledged the obvious fact that the change of Russia’s stance towards Abkhazia, activated while he had still held the Russian presidency, served the strategic interests of Russia. On the morning of the visit, a bomb exploded in the centre of the northern resort of Gagra, killing two people; and as the last meeting of the day was being held, another exploded in Sukhum, this time without casualties.
Despite the apprehensions felt about the post-recognition agreements with Russia and the heat generated during the campaign, the 2009 election passed off peacefully. Bagapsh, who still basked in the glory of having been in office at the time when the process of achieving international recognition began, proved the clear winner without any need for a run-off. His intention, he stated, was to devote his second (and, by the constitution, final) term to widening Abkhazia’s recognition and working towards improving life for the republic’s citizens, free from thoughts about having to contest another election.
In the early summer of 2010, with the agreement of Abkhazia's prime minister Sergej Shamba (previously the long-serving foreign minister), Kuparadze was invited to Abkhazia to attend the broadcast of his documentary on Abkhazia's state TV-channel. A live discussion immediately followed the film, and both on this occasion and in later comments the predominant reaction was worryingly negative (not to say hostile). Rather than welcome the admission of wrongs seen in the film, commentators mostly evinced suspicion. The film was condemned as some kind of ruse to deceive the Abkhazians into adopting a less adamant stance against reunification, and even the motives of those who had organised the event in Sukhum (Shamba and representatives of some NGOs) were called into question: did they, it was asked, have the best interests of Abkhazia at heart or were they (especially those who received funding for projects from the west) being called to play the (presumed pro-Georgian) tune of those western organisations who finance joint-projects?
The last journey
The fact that Chatham House, the leading foreign-policy think-tank in London, would also have invited Bagapsh to speak makes it reasonably sure that the UK trip would have granted him a visa. But the issue, and the impact of a trip on the British (or European) attitude to Abkhazia, were never to be tested. For as his speech was being finalised, Bagapsh flew to Moscow for a minor operation to correct a smoker’s complaint, and though the operation (in an FSB clinic) evidently went smoothly, complications set in, and he died unexpectedly on 29 May 2011. Vladimir Putin was amongst the mourners on the day of the funeral.
The presidential contest
Shamba’s headquarters had the air of being the best financed and was a hive of activity throughout the campaign. Khadzhimba, whose running-mate was Svetlana Dzhergenia, widow of ex-president Ardzinba, retained much of the core support he had previously attracted, but since he had failed on two earlier occasions there was a feeling that his campaign was doomed; moreover, despite his personal reputation for integrity, the nature of (some of) his followers alienated a number of voters. Ankvab, who had survived several assassination attempts since his return to Abkhazian politics from pursuing business interests in Moscow, was renowned for personal austerity and made the eradication of corruption the central plank of his manifesto (which was the last of the three to be prepared for circulation and took the form of a booklet containing a personal address in Abkhaz and Russian to the reader).
Ankvab, perhaps surprisingly, declined to respond to the charge. His reason was possibly that he had already vigorously defended himself against a similar charge made in 2003 by Vladislav Ardzinba, arguing that Ardzinba had known as much about Georgian intentions as he did; so that, if any blame was to be applied, it should attach to the then head of the administration, namely Ardzinba himself, who is regarded in Abkhazia as a figure utterly beyond public reproach.
Well over one hundred observers (from such countries as Russia, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Japan, Nauru, and Fiji) cast supervisory eyes over the proceedings on election-day and expressed themselves fully satisfied. It was possible, not for the first time, to hear the opinion expressed that democracy is more advanced in Abkhazia than in Russia (let alone Georgia). Ballot-boxes were transparent. Internal Abkhazian passports served as registration-cards, and voting-slips were issued only after the passport was checked against the voter-list for that ward, and the passport stamped as proof of voting. Counts were conducted on the spot in full view of officials, observers and individuals peering through windows from the street outside.
The big neighbour
Already, during Ardzinba’s presidency, there were arguments over the extent to which the sale of such fundamental state-properties as the five "Stalin dachas" should even be contemplated (never mind actually permitted). A huge stretch of the beach and the adjoining pine-forest in the finest of Abkhazia’s resorts (Pitsunda) have remained in the exclusive control of Russian ministries since Nikita Krushchëv first developed the bay into a tourist-paradise in the 1960s. A state-dacha overlooking Gagra (the so-called "Pearl of the Black Sea") that had fallen derelict has been renovated behind a high fence with sentry-posts, reportedly as a retreat for the head of the Krasnodar region.
The village of Aibga today is occupied by a handful of ethnic Russians, and Russia asserted that they would be better catered for under direct Russian rule. The Abkhazian government strongly opposed any transfer of land and attendant control of whatever mineral wealth might lie on or beneath it. A joint commission was established to investigate the matter. The leader of the Abkhazian delegation is toponymist Valerij Kvarchia, who has marshalled weighty documentary evidence to buttress Abkhazia’s right to the area. The matter awaits resolution.
That said, perhaps the greatest challenge to the traditional source of tourists for Abkhazia (viz. Russia) is the relatively high prices coupled with lowish standards of service and an infrastructure in severe need of upgrading, whose consequence is that Abkhazia has lost out over recent years to such destinations as Turkey and Egypt (to which Russians can easily obtain entry-visas). In many ways, visting Abkhazia is a reminder of life in Soviet times; a phenomenon that an Abkhazian journalist and insightful commentator on the modern scene, Inal Kashig, ascribes not to any emotional attachment among Abkhazians to the Soviet lifestyle but simply to the fact that they have little or no experience of anything different. This is, of course, a direct result of the years of isolation imposed upon the republic during the regime of sanctions and the deliberate shunning by the international community.
For several years, Russia’s attempts to gain membership of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) had been blocked by Georgia, as the latter sought to win concessions with regard to Russia’s "occupation" of both Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Georgia failed to gain agreement for the posting of its own border-guards on either side of the crossings from Russia into the two republics; but eventually, towards the close of 2011, Russia consented to a Swiss proposal that trade across the frontiers be monitored by an independent and neutral agency. Georgia found this measure acceptable and withdrew its objections to Russian membership of the WTO. Some irritation was expressed in Abkhazia that this could to a degree raise doubts about the absolute nature of Abkhazia’s independence, but at least trade can continue without direct interference, and simultaneously Russia has achieved its long-term goal.
A most important recent event was the visit of Archimandrite Dorofej Dbar of the Orthodox Church of Abkhazia to Istanbul in January 2012, where he was officially received by the Patriarch of Constantinople. Dbar explained in his interview to the Russian-language paper Èkho Moskvy that, when the Georgian bishop left Abkhazia, the priest Vissarion Apliaa, who is now in his 60s, took complete charge of the the Sukhum Eparchy. He failed in his attempt to persuade the Russian Patriarch Aleksej II before the latter’s death at the end of 2008 to sanction the Abkhazian church’s removal from the Georgian church to join that of Russia; when Aleksej’s successor, Kirill I, maintained his predecessor’s stance and dispatched a representative to the monastery in New Athos in 2010, the result was a schism within Abkhazia as a group of younger reformers came together under Dbar, heading what they declared to be a Holy Metropolis.
Khadzhimba, who came bottom of the poll in the 2011 presidential election, remained as head of the "Forum for the National Unity of Abkhazia", and was a founder-member of a new opposition grouping called Apsadgjyl (Homeland), designed to be a focus for self-declared "patriots". In this capacity he addressed its opening congress on 19 January 2012. The grouping plans to contest the parliamentary elections, scheduled for March 2013. One of its demands is for equal time to be allotted to parties on state TV and radio in the run-up to election-day. Khadzimba himself succeeded in gaining election to the new parliament in the first round of voting. In general, the turnout was low, and only a handful of former deputies won re-election.
The demographic legacy
It might also be expected that both the Kartvelian and Armenian figures would be higher. There is a certain amount of criss-crossing of the Ingur border by local Mingrelians, with more of them likely to be found in Abkhazia during the summer months when they tend their farms, and this census was taken in winter. It should also be noted that the Greek and Israeli governments mounted rescue-missions to repatriate most members of their respective communities in autumn 1992. Abkhazia’s population today is under half what it was in 1989, and the most glaring difference between then and now clearly concerns the Kartvelian totals.
The fourteen months of bitter warfare cost thousands of lives, and much of Abkhazia's cultural patrimony was targeted for destruction. Sukhum's final recapture from the occupying Georgian forces on 27 September 1993 sparked a mass exodus of the Kartvelian population, concentrated in and around Sukhum and the south-eastern provinces of Gulripsh, Ochamchira and Gal, through fear of reprisals for (real or perceived) collaboration with the invaders. This population movement has been successfully portrayed by the Georgian side as an example of the kind of "ethnic cleansing" that the world was already experiencing in the Balkan maelstrom.
Thus, whilst the bulk of Abkhazia’s Kartvelians may have ended up outside Abkhazia (primarily in Georgia), they removed themselves and were not forced out by gun-toting Abkhazians in furtherance of some governmental policy ethnically to cleanse the republic, which is surely what the term ethnic cleansing at heart implies. Their presence in miserable living conditions on Georgian soil has been used by the Tbilisi authorities for general propaganda purposes and as a means of attracting large amounts of humanitarian aid. Moreover, their numbers have been greatly exaggerated, for the larger the number claimed, the greater the amount of aid obtained (as late as 2010, President Saak’ashvili was referring to 500,000 expellees from Abkhazia).
Whatever the reason why pre-war Kartvelian residents of Abkhazia have for almost two decades found themselves as refugees in Georgia, their very existence is a stick used by Georgia to charge that Abkhazia cannot claim any kind of democratic legitimacy or valid elections with so many condemned to silence beyond its frontiers. Internally, Abkhazia’s human-rights record is also called into question over such issues as language-use in the Gal district’s schools, for it is often (albeit erroneously) asserted that Georgian is banned as the language of tuition in this Mingrelian community.
The next steps
Moscow’s actions in August 2008 have been almost universally condemned, but Moscow has its interests in the Caucasus, and it has acted in the way it deems they will best be served; to this extent, it has acted like most states and can hardly be blamed for that. Furthermore, its policy of recognition of Abkhazia (and South Ossetia) fully accorded with the aspirations of the local majority-populations. This can be seen as a welcome rectification of the mistake made in recognising Georgia within its Soviet borders in the first place, and should serve as a model for the wider international community. The west’s reluctance to admit the error of 1992, combined with eighteen years of blindly sanctioning the futile policies emanating from Tbilisi, has resulted only in Abkhazia growing ever closer to Russia and in Russia consolidating its influence in the area. When Russia granted recognition, its leadership stated that it wanted its initiative to be followed. It is high time for that to happen.
* Much of Abkhazia’s housing-stock and infrastructure was destroyed in the war. According to the silence-is-consent principle, an international community which remained largely silent while Georgian forces wrought this devastation shares the blame and thus should now share the burden of making good the damage. Georgia has paid no reparations, and any money available to Abkhazia’s budget will be spent for the benefit of the Abkhazians and other members of the population who supported the Abkhazian cause
* The Abkhazian government has no objection to Mingrelians returning to/residing in the province of Gal, where, if they wish, they can exercise their rights to have their children educated through the medium of Georgian. In many cases, however, Georgian textbooks in such subjects as history and geography demonstrably pervert the relevant facts relating to Abkhazia, and it is vital that the relevant materials are subject to independent scrutiny to guarantee their accuracy. It is wrong to impose, or try to impose, ethnic categories (in the way that Georgian ethnicity was actually imposed on Mingrelians, Svans and Laz by the central authorities circa 1930), and important to respect the fact that people's sense of their identity can both shift over time and contain plural elements; by the same token, acceptance of the distinction (which Abkhazians tend to make) between Mingrelians and Georgians, and the growth of Mingrelian pride in their particular, historically marginalised, language and culture, could help greatly to reconstruct relations among people scarred by conflict and to reduce the threat of its recurrence
* Once the economy is on a secure footing, the infrastructure restored, and Abkhazia wins recognition from Georgia (including the signing of a non-aggression pact and the establishment of normal, good-neighbourly relations), Abkhazia will undertake to consider the possibility of gradually returning more refugees to areas outside the Gal district. Their integration will need to be carefully managed so that it contributes to Abkhazia's nation-buillding process rather than becomes a source of new division. It is essential, for example, that the refugees become citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia (which of course entails a requirement to respect its laws and constitution). This will both recognise their civic equality and help address any fear among Abkhazia's other ethnic groups that the effort to build a fair and democratic society will be undermined by the mass-return of a refugee-community which could prove susceptible to Georgian manipulation. After all, Abkhazia had a non-Kartvelian majority prior to the start of the war, and in Mikhail Gorbachev’s pre-war referendum of 17 March 1991 an absolute majority of Abkhazia’s electorate had voted not to join Georgia’s drive for independence, fearing the consequences thereof. In the meantime, everything feasible will be done to guarantee the safety of the Gal district’s Mingrelians and to make them feel proud to be citizens of the Republic of Abkhazia
• Abkhazia is open to partnerships with, and investment from, all interested states, but, despite diktats from those seeking to impose some flawed pax Americana et Britannica, there will be no abandoning of the independence so dearly won in the war and maintained during succeeding years of isolation and sanctions.
For years, the view was expressed that the South Ossetian problem would be the easier to resolve. And yet it was the five-day war in/around South Ossetia in August 2008 that led to the "unfreezing" of the so-called frozen Abkhazian and South Ossetian conflicts, when Russia’s Dmitry Medvedev offered them both recognition. Since then, the two young states have usually been harnessed together and treated as a pair. But more observers are expressing the self-evident fact that Abkhazia has by far the greater capacity for sustaining a viable independence. Abkhazia should be given the chance to demonstrate its capacity so to do by exploiting its potential with the full support of the international community, which thus far has manifested only an alarming tendency to sympathise with the aggressor.