May 12, 2008

Abkhazia: US Envoy Arrives in Abkhazia

Sample ImageA US envoy is holding talks with Abkhaz authorities in an effort to stimulate negotiations with Georgia.

Below is an article published by the International Herald Tribune:


A senior U.S. envoy traveled to […] Abkhazia on Saturday [10 May 2008] seeking to quell spiraling tensions between the federal government and the Russian-backed province.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Matthew Bryza urged both sides to jump start negotiations in order to avoid a renewed armed conflict.

Western-leaning Georgia and Abkhazia are at the center of struggle between Moscow and the West for influence in the strategically located South Caucasus. Tensions are high with Georgia pushing aggressively for NATO membership and trying to draw closer to the United States.

Abkhazia, which has had de-facto independence since breaking away from Georgia in the 1990s, has long been supported by Russia. Moscow has stepped up that backing in recent weeks, lifting trade sanctions, establishing legal ties and increasing the peacekeeping force.

"The most important goal of our visit is to stimulate the negotiations," Bryza said Saturday in Russian at the start of talks with the region's leader, Sergei Bagapsh, in the province's main city, Sukhumi.

Speaking at a news conference in Tbilisi on Friday [9 May 2008], Bryza warned Russia against stoking tensions in the region.

"Mediators or peacekeepers don't issue military threats to parties to a conflict," Bryza told reporters.

Georgia's push for NATO membership has worried Moscow. The alliance declined last month to begin membership preparations for Georgia, but assured its U.S.-allied leadership that the country would eventually join the alliance.