UN, Russia and Georgia Tussle on Abkhazia, So Close to Sochi But So Far
Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis
UNITED NATIONS, July
26 -- Russia and Georgia engaged in a diplomatic tangle this week in the UN
Security Council, an echo of the helicopter gunship attack in Abkhazia's upper
Kodori gorge on March 11 of this year. (Click
the report.) Abkhazia, like South Ossetia, is a breakaway region of Georgia, one
UN Observer Mission that
the Security Council periodically reviews,
most recently in April.
week's review, the Georgia's Ambassador Irakli Alasania asked for a chance to
participate and speak. For a non-Security Council member like Georgia to
participate, the meeting could not be in the (closed) consultation room, but
must be out in the Council chamber.
item be to be discussed involved the March 11 gunship bombing, widely attributed
to Russia, the Russian delegation began by opposing Georgia's participation. But
several Council members support Georgia. Russia reportedly then countered that
an Abkhaz representative should also then be allowed to participate. Since
Abkhazia is not a UN General Assembly member, this would mean that the meeting
could not be held anywhere in the Council, even in a side room. It would require
meeting. (One recent such meet involved George Clooney briefing Council members
in a room in the UN's basement, with a phalanx of paparazzi outside, about
meeting has been scheduled for Monday, but because of this behind the scene
controversy about the meeting's format, it was postpone to Thursday. The
Georgian mission scheduled a press conference in the UN's briefing room for
12:30 on Thursday. Then a compromise was reached, in which the meeting was held
in the Security Council chamber, but remained closed so that no one could see
it. Inner City Press' sources say that while in the consultation room, several
members spoke, out in the Chamber prepared statements were read out by Georgia
and Russia. Georgia then cancelled its press conference, and instead held a
briefing "stakeout" at the microphone in hall outside the Council.
City Press was there, and as well as inquiring about the helicopter attack and
its history, also asked Amb. Alasania for his take on why the meeting had been
postponed from Monday to Thursday. He ascribed this to the Secretary-General's
report only become available "three days late." Video
Later, however, also on-camera, Council President (and Chinese Ambassador) Wang
Guangya acknowledged in response to Inner City Press' question that a request
had been made for Abkhaz participation.
said that there had been a "procedural discussion" and that "finally" it had
been agreed to have a "private debate, a closed meeting." He said that there is
an intention for "some other informal meeting might be held, at which
representative Abkhaz might be invited." Video
from Minute 2:04.
Inner City Press asked what the next step would be on the report about the March
11 helicopter attack, Amb. Wang said that the "next step is not in the Council
Abkhazia, barbering for UN military personnel: game of mirrors
emphasizes that there is a history of such attacks, for example in Omalo in
2001, and also in 1999, although in that instance Russia reportedly apologized,
that " Russian aircraft were laying mines in an area
in Dagestan which was expected to be infiltrated by Chechen fighters, one of the
pilots made a mistake and dropped several mines." There was also a bombing of
Shahili, near the Georgia - Chechnya border.
Looking forward toward 2014,
when the Winter Olympic will be held near Abkhazia, in Sochi, one wonders what
the state of the relationship -- and map -- between Georgia and Russia will be
at that time. $15 billion are slated to be invested in and around Sochi, not
counting the investment by oligarch Oleg Deripaska in building Sochi's airport.
On this we turn full circle, to an
item in the Russian business press of July
second tender on the privatization of Serbia's copper company RTB Bor. will be
announced on May 31. The start price will be USD340 million. Interest in the
participation in the tender was confirmed by 'Soyuzmetallresource', the member
of the resource division of Basic Element. Analysts believe that the deal could
be executed at lower price if Oleg Deripaska manages to attract Serbia's
builders to Sochi projects in exchange for the victory in the tender."
Ambassador Alasania was asked, by an ITAR/TASS reporter, if he thought that
independence for Kosovo would impact and expand the aims of those in Abkhazia
and South Ossetia. Amb. Alasania repeated the line about Kosovo being sui
generic, a unique case not to be viewed as a precedent. We'll see.
* * *
piece by this correspondent about the ongoing National Reconciliation Congress
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