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At the UN, Georgian Minister Says More Missiles May Come, Black Sea Vacations Offered

Byline: Matthew Russell Lee of Inner City Press at the UN: News Analysis

UNITED NATIONS, October 8 -- Georgia's minister of conflict resolution, David Bakradze, appeared at the UN on Monday, and the talk was more of conflict than of resolution. In August there was the missile dropped in the South Ossetia conflict zone; in September, Georgia shot at people it said were intent on sabotaging its new road to Upper Abkhazia. Inner City Press asked Mr. Bakradze how each of these impacted negotiation and what he called confidence building measures.

            "This is a European security problem," Mr. Bakradze said. "It could happen to Ukraine, to Azerbaijan, Moldova, Estonia, Poland. In Georgia we are a test case. We are antennae because we are closest to Russia. But others will feel it too."

            Regarding the missile, Mr. Bakradze said that even Russian and North Ossetian experts signed off on a report that it came from a Russian over-flight of Georgian airspace. Then, he said, Russia tried to change the report. [Click here for Inner City Press' coverage of Russia's version, which can only be covered when Russia chooses to tell its story.] He said that there had been other violations of airspace, all dealt with quietly by means of letters from Georgia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs to the Russian Ambassador.

            In the case of Abkhazia, Mr. Bakradze said that in the past three months there have been four letters to the UN's Special Representative, regarding sabotage of the road and regarding propaganda. Mr. Bakradze said that when Georgian President Saakashvili met with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon last month, Ban was positive about Georgia's request for a review of the Abkhazia peace process and the UN's role in it. Georgia's Ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania, qualified that Ban "expressed interest" and that his envoy "will be involved in the process."

            Mr. Bakradze offered a contrast between the conflict resolution processes in South Ossetia, which he said is going well, and in Abkhazia, where he said ethnic cleansing means that confidence building measures (CBM) are less possible. His CBM example in South Ossetia involved Georgia-funded vacations for South Ossetians to Georgia Black Sea resort towns and villages. But even this has reportedly given rise to retaliation by "de facto" South Ossetian authorities, punishing those who went on vacation.

Swimming in Abkhazia, with rusted ship on beach

            Mr. Bakradze's main focus this week is Abkhazia, with the UN's mission there coming up for renewal: a meeting on October 11, and vote on October 15. Both Mr. Bakradze and Amb. Alasania said that their desired peace process review will not make it into the roll-over resolution, but maybe the next one. "You call these frozen conflicts," Mr. Bakradze said, "but it's messy. Only the conflict resolution process is frozen. There are people to be protected."

            It's worth noting that even the UN criticized Georgia's youth camp next to Abkhazia, and that President Saakashvili denounced the UN for this "amoral advice." There's a long way to go, for conflict resolution.

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Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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UN Office: S-453A, UN, NY 10017 USA Tel: 212-963-1439

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