Tina Gogeliani, Ph.D. (Political Science), director, Political Analysis Branch of the International Center on Conflict and Negotiation (Tbilisi, Georgia)

The governments of the South Caucasian states have been setting great store by outside actors for settling regional conflicts. They justified this by referring to the danger of a spread in aggressive separatism, crime, and terrorism, which could destabilize the entire region, the need to create democratic states, and the desire to ensure the stability and security of potential energy resource transportation projects. But Western states were loath to become actively involved. Unequivocally refusing to resolve the problem by military means, they were against any forced changing of the borders, were in favor of retaining the territorial integrity of the regions republics, and expressed their willingness to help these countries implement economic and social programs only after the conflicts had been settled. In this way, the Wests involvement in the events in the region did not have any decisive impact on the balance of powers between the opposing sides.

At the beginning of the 1990s, the Southern Caucasus was not in the Wests zone of important interests, and its active involvement in the peacekeeping process in this region did not gain broad public support. And even though this territory now occupies a particular place in the Wests foreign policy plans, it largely defines its attitude toward the conflicts in this region through political statements and recommendations. And there is no hope of seeing campaigns akin to the one being carried out in Yugoslavia any time soon in this region. Western countries and international organizations do not resort to radical measures if they are not motivated by special interests, or there is no threat to international security. What is more, the conflicts in the Southern Caucasus do not have the same moral impact on Western public opinion as the situation in Bosnia and Kosovo, and do not attract any particular attention from the international mass media. The limited interest in the South Caucasian conflicts gives rise to a contradiction between the U.S. governments desire to reduce Russias influence in this region, on the one hand, and the inability of the U.N. and OSCE to provide adequate resources for settling the conflict, on the other. All the same, the West is convinced that while striving to diminish Russias role, constructive relations must be maintained with this country, since stability in the region cannot be ensured without its active participation.

Since the mid-1990s, the prospect of developing Caspian oil has attracted the Wests attention to the events in the Caucasus. Questions relating to the production of the local hydrocarbons, their transportation to Western markets, and the construction of a Eurasian transportation corridor have gone beyond the framework of economic problems and become a topic of big politics. This is playing a double role; interest in the regions stability is growing (efforts are being activated to resolve conflicts), on the one hand, whereas the risk of destabilization is increasing due to the intense rivalry among those who are trying to gain a foothold there, on the other. The consequences of investment in the pipelines can be evaluated both according to the most lucrative and the most discouraging scenario. For example, construction of a route for exporting hydrocarbons could stir up conflicts that have long been under wraps. But considerations about the stabilizing factor of the energy resources are also being expressed, the economic attractiveness of which could stimulate the development of the peacekeeping process and push the sides toward mutually acceptable solutions. Western states are referring to the need to resolve these conflicts in order to implement economic projects in the region. But practice shows that the strategic interests arising from the need to ensure the safety of energy deliveries are clearly insufficient for outside actors to become overly involved in the regions affairs, for example, with respect to sending in peace-building forces. Oil companies far from always share the concern of the local population or governments regarding security problems.1 In the final analysis, in order to realize the long-term economic interests of all the sides involved in Caucasian affairs, the ethnopolitical conflicts must be settled once and for all. But this does not mean that the sides will accept just any alternative for resolving them.

Since the beginning of the 1990s, European states and international organizations (primarily the U.N. and OSCE) have been becoming actively involved in the peaceful settlement of regional crises. Their policy envisages diplomatic initiatives in the U.N. Security Council, sending military observers to the confrontation zones, and rendering humanitarian aid to the local population and refugees. Western countries have begun developing projects to prevent conflicts and draw up early warning strategies. Along with peacekeeping activity at the official level, an important role is played by peoples diplomacy. International and regional nongovernmental organizations are becoming actively involved in this sphere, as well as groups engaged in early warning, identification, and settlement of conflicts. Among them are the Harvard Negotiation Project, the Forum for Early Warning and Early Response, International Alert, Caucasian Links, and others. They are all trying to help the sides begin a dialog, create an atmosphere of trust, and teach the population conflict settlement methods. According to Neil MacFarlane, a British professor, the Western factor dominates in the activity of international organizations and is defined by the nature of the policy they conduct in the peacekeeping process, whereby the CIS countries also perceive these structures as pro-Western.2

The collapse in the Soviet Union gave the U.N. and OSCE a real chance for action. But they were slow to interfere for three main reasons: the novelty of this kind of interference in domestic conflicts; the uncertainty of the situation in the post-Soviet space; and the top priority of the Yugoslavian crisis.3 Throughout the entire settlement process, the attitude of international organizations toward the Caucasian conflicts has been characterized by soft campaigns, which consist of information-gathering missions, political statements, and in some cases normative and operational measures.

At the first stage, missions were sent to the region to gather facts, which became a key element in the U.N. Secretary-Generals new preventive diplomacy. A temporary U.N. administration was opened in Tbilisi for maintaining contacts between the sides and submitting reports on the situation to U.N. Headquarters in New York. The OSCE also sent inspection missions. From the very beginning, the need for close cooperation between these two international structures was designated. But the participation of Russia and the U.N. reduced the OSCEs opportunity to play an intermediary role in settling the Abkhazian conflict; it was announced that it had not reached a level requiring the OSCEs large-scale intervention, although many external actors, particularly the U.S., expressed their interest in a solution being found precisely within the framework of this European organization.4 It is very likely that such statements were made in order to reduce Russias influence in the region and Irans involvement in its affairs. The NATO leadership also responded to the escalation in hostilities. For the first time, the Abkhazian theme was mentioned at a Foreign Ministers meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council. Its participants called on the sides to observe a ceasefire and exert efforts along with the U.N. and OSCE to achieve political settlement.5

In 1993, the U.N. Secretary-General sent his special emissary to Georgia. Despite the fact that his mission was to gather information, an agreement was reached both on a comprehensive political settlement of the conflict and on a conception for a peace-building operation. The Security Council published three statements (September and October 1992, and January 1993), which called for observing the Moscow ceasefire agreement signed on 3 September, 1992.6 An evaluation of the situation in Abkhazia as a threat to peace and international security appeared in the third resolution of the Security Council (October 1993) after the first violations of the Sochi agreement of 27 July, 1993.7 Referring to the principles of international law, the U.N. Security Council resolutions upheld adherence to the principle of Georgias territorial integrity, did not mention the seizure of one Abkhazian city, censured the attempt to change the demographic composition of Abkhazia, denied any decision based on the results of so-called ethnic cleansing, and recognized the right of all refugees and displaced persons affected by the conflict in Abkhazia to return without preconditions to their homes under secure conditions.8 What is more, the Security Council also adopted decisions with respect to the non-fighting sides, which are considered sides suspected or accused of active participation in the conflicts.9 In its resolution of 19 October, 1993 (No. 876, paragraph 8), the Security Council called on all states to prevent the provision from their territories or by persons under their jurisdiction of all assistance, other than humanitarian assistance, to the Abkhaz side. But no decisions on applying diplomatic sanctions to any of the warring sides were adopted, nor were any recommendations made on cutting back consular or any other diplomatic missions on their territory. As for economic sanctions, the Security Council introduced an embargo against the Abkhaz side (only humanitarian aid was exempt from this measure). The U.N. called on a group of well-known persons from the OSCE countries to make their contribution to this process, while an appeal was made to Iran and other Arab countries asking them to introduce an immediate embargo on the delivery of arms to all the sides in the conflict.

The extremely important question of a possible U.N. peace-building operation in the conflict zone was widely discussed. But the Security Council refrained from adopting a decision on deploying U.N. peacekeeping forces in the conflict zones, although the Georgian leadership urgently requested this. The prerequisite for launching a U.N. peace-building operation in Georgia was that progress be made at the negotiations between both the conflicting sides, but since this progress was not forthcoming, the Security Council deemed it impossible to send in its peacekeeping forces. As the Clinton administration stated, the U.S. was ready to support the sending of a U.N. peacekeeping contingent to Abkhazia if the fighting sides achieved progress at the peace talks, but the Americans would not be part of this contingent.10 As for Russia, it had a negative attitude toward the proposed presence of Western peacekeeping forces. Nevertheless, at the request of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, the U.N. Secretary-General suggested sending military observers to the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone, who were to monitor implementation of the 3 September, 1992 agreement and draw up a long-term plan of comprehensive settlement.

After the trilateral agreement on a ceasefire in Abkhazia and a control mechanism over its implementation was signed in Sochi on 27 July, 1993, Russia and Georgia asked the U.N. and OSCE to send observers to assist in achieving peaceful settlement. The Security Council agreed to increase the number of observers and sent a corresponding U.N. mission to Georgia (the UNOMIG).11 At the initial stage, only Tbilisi expressed its willingness to accommodate the military observers, the Abkhazian side raised objections to the peace-building operation, and Russia did not support the idea of an international peace conference at all.12

After the second round of Georgian-Abkhazian negotiations held in Geneva in November 1993-January 1994, the U.N. stepped up its efforts, as a result of which the mission of observers mentioned above obtained broader powers, and in particular was responsible for ensuring the hostilities did not resume. But even before this, in September 1993, due to violation of the Sochi agreement, the U.N. Secretary-General suggested making a choice between the U.N. peace-building mission and Russias peacekeeping efforts. The first alternative envisaged engaging a large contingent of Russian servicemen in the U.N. operation on the basis of the following principles: deploying peace-building forces throughout Abkhazia, but not in the buffer zone between Abkhazia and the rest of Georgia; activating the significant forces of the U.N. civilian police to maintain public order; returning refugees and displaced persons; and respecting the territorial integrity of Georgia along with granting Abkhazia broad political autonomy. This plan was accepted by Georgia, but raised objections from the Abkhazian side. The second alternative envisaged a Russian peacekeeping contingent. But it was formulated in general terms, without clear mention of Russias role.13 It also said that in the event multinational forces were created, they would not be under U.N. command, rather the operations would be conducted under the supervision of the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugee (UNHCR).

In the final analysis, the Security Council made a choice in favor of deploying joint observer groups in Abkhazia made up of Georgian, Abkhazian, and Russian contingents in order to observe the ceasefire agreement of 27 July, 1993, and also supported Russias initiative to help the sides undertake the measures necessary for ensuring the safety of the U.N. Mission personnel in Georgia.14 Pursuant to the Moscow agreement of 3 September, 1992, a trilateral contingent of peace-building forces was deployed in Abkhazia. At the second stage, the U.N. was to reinforce the peace plan drawn up under the aegis of Russia (the Sochi agreement of 27 July, 1993), which would have led to the next distribution of obligations: peace-building would be under the competence of the U.N., and peace-keeping would be the authority of the main regional nation.

When armed onslaughts by the Abkhazians (September 1993) cast doubt on the validity of the Sochi agreement, the U.N. tried to assume a leading role in the peacekeeping process by putting forward a universal plan for establishing peace. But in the spring of 1994, the U.N. had to admit that Russia was the leader in the peacekeeping process. The Security Council, bearing in mind the peace agreement of 14 May, 1994 concluded under the aegis of Moscow, supported the new CIS peacekeeping operation and welcomed the arrival of Russian peacekeeping contingents in the conflict zone.15 After yielding leadership to the Russian side, the U.N. considered its main mission to be organizing international observation over the Russian peacekeeping efforts both at the negotiation table and under field conditions, as well as ensuring they correlated to international standards. The functions of the U.N. military observers however boiled down to monitoring the situation and informing U.N. Headquarters.

Thanks to the joint efforts of the U.N., Russia (as the assisting side), the OSCE, and the states belonging to the U.N. Secretary-Generals Group of Friends,16 meetings between the Georgian and Abkhazian sides began in Geneva in 1994.17 The friends of the U.N. Secretary-General advise him and offer their recommendations on crisis situations. They can exert pressure on participants in a conflict, introduce an element of impartiality into the peacekeeping process, prepare the ground for ratification of U.N. resolutions and ensure support of their implementation, and assist in monitoring the situation. The efficiency of this institution (along with other factors) also depends on the level of consensus among the participants. At all the meetings in Geneva, the U.N., OSCE, and Russian Federation called on the sides to proceed from the need to observe Georgias territorial integrity and fully ensure the interests of Abkhazias entire multinational population.

Despite the fact that all the decisions adopted have not yielded any specific results, incorporating the U.N. into settlement of the conflict through the mechanisms created by the Geneva meetings is promoting dynamic development of the negotiation process. The Security Council extended the mandate of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia and demanded from the conflicting sides an increase in their participation in the peace process being conducted under the auspices of the U.N., continued dialog, expanded contacts at all levels, and manifestation of the necessary will for achieving significant results on the key issues of the negotiations.

On 31 January, 2001, the Security Council adopted Resolution No. 1339, in which, referring to all its corresponding decisions on the conflict, expressed concern that the overall situation in the confrontation zone, although largely peaceful, was instable.

The U.N. is also actively working on the political-legal aspect of the problemAbkhazias status within Georgia. Under the supervision of a U.N. special envoy to Georgia, Dieter Boden, proposals were drawn up on the delimitation of powers between Tbilisi and Sukhumi, which offer general principles for political settlement of the conflict. In other words, this was a framework document called upon to form the foundation for subsequent talks between the sides. Political settlement within the framework of this U.N. document is supported by many international participants, but the opposing sides are still not ready to begin a dialog on this basis, since some provisions in the document are arousing fervent discussion and dispute.

A special role in the settlement process is played by the standpoints and approaches of individual states. On the whole, they are expressing their interests and goals on the basis of the peacekeeping decisions being adopted within international organizations. If we picture the political situation surrounding regulation of the conflicts in the region as a pyramid, it can be said that four foreign actors are at its top: Turkey, Iran, Russia, and the West (Western Europe and the US).18

As for Turkey, it is also in favor of Georgias territorial integrity, the transit function of which is important for transporting the Caspians resources to the West. Ankara has its own strategic interests in the Southern Caucasus, it is trying to reinforce its foothold in the region, prevent both Russia and Iran from increasing their influence there, and ensure implementation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline project. What is more, according to some Turkish analysts, its successful mediation in the settlement process could allow Ankara to gain political dividends from the European countries.19 But despite its interest in rendering assistance to the Caucasian states in settling their conflicts, Turkey has been unable to play a leading role in the settlement process and found itself an outside observer in the events. What is more, the countrys leadership does not want to do anything that might spoil its relations with Russia.

The U.S. is performing a certain function in the settlement process. Washington can have an impact on the outcome of the conflict, both directly and through the OSCE and Turkey, by rendering it broad support. By emphasizing the importance of Ankaras role, the U.S. intends to coordinate the steps to be taken with it to activate the peacekeeping process.20

The U.S. is in favor of preserving Georgias territorial integrity and of settling the conflicts by political means, bearing in mind the interests of Abkhazian security on the basis of granting it broad autonomy.21 The policy aimed at resolving the conflict proposes using all possible diplomatic means, including direct pressure from high-ranking American officials. The United States is working in Georgia to advance the negotiations sponsored by the U.N., and is taking active part in the activity of the U.N. Observer Commission in Abkhazia.

Since the beginning of the antiterrorist campaign in Afghanistan, the U.S. leadership has been making particularly principled statements about the need for the opposing sides and international organizations to augment their efforts in the settlement of regional conflicts. The presidents of America and Russia adopted a joint statement in favor of more dynamic joint action to prevent conflicts in the CIS, including in Nagorny Karabakh, Transdniester, Abkhazia, and South Ossetia.

It is also worth mentioning the significant humanitarian aid rendered by Western states and international organizations to the victims of the conflicts. It is provided by specialized U.N. institutions: the UNHCR,22 UNICEF, U.N. Volunteers, and the World Health Organization. In addition, the USAID,23 the World Bank,24 and other organizations are participating in this humanitarian mission. In order to support their activity, the U.N. Department of Humanitarian Affairs has been convening international meetings of sponsors.25 Significant funds have been allotted to providing temporary housing, food, and other basic necessities to refugees and forcibly displaced persons. Psychological help was also being rendered in the form of training sessions on post-conflict rehabilitation, and harmonious integration of displaced persons and refugees in their places of temporary residence was being actively promulgated in society. Western states and international financial organizations are allotting funds in the form of grants and credits to the restoration of infrastructure destroyed in the wars. As for the European Commission (EC), it stated that it is in favor of rendering help to the Abkhazian population only after peaceful settlement of the conflict.

An interesting picture emerges when comparing the funds allotted by the West for eliminating the consequences of and restoring the destroyed facilities in the conflict zones of the Southern Caucasus with similar help rendered to the Balkans. In 1996, the World Bank adopted a five-year restoration plan for Bosnia, allotting $5.1 billion to this purpose,26 and along with the European Commission calculated that $2.3 billion would be needed to implement a four-year restoration plan of Kosovo.27 If we proceed from similar standards and consider that in reality damage in the South Caucasian conflicts was no less, $0.5 billion will be required to restore Abkhazia.28

The conflicting sides themselves are expressing their discontent with the actions of the Western states and the inefficiency of the international organizations mechanisms. Official Tbilisi is criticizing the activity of the U.N. in the Georgian-Abkhazian settlement process. Eduard Shevardnadze has repeatedly expressed his dissatisfaction with the results of the world communitys efforts, in particular the U.N. Security Council (it adopted 23 resolutions on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, which proved absolutely ineffective) and called on the Organization to take a firmer and uncompromising stance with respect to the conflict in Abkhazia.29

Georgian society is demanding that the current settlement model be replaced, putting the main emphasis on the capabilities of the OSCE and NATO.30 The precedent of using forceful methods for resolving the situation in Kosovo is arousing the real hope of incorporating NATO in the resolution of similar problems, stated the Georgian President in his interview,31 although he noted that the alliances participation in regulating the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict is very unlikely in the near future.

The West is extremely reticent regarding this question, since the region is not significant enough for it to be willing to take serious action.32 The West sees the mood of the Georgian authorities as an important factor in promoting a strengthening in its foothold in the region, although Western democracies still prefer to object to NATOs direct participation in the resolution of local conflicts. At this stage, the region is not such a high priority for the bloc as the Balkans, it is willing to discuss the participation of its contingents here only after peace has been attained, and it would seem that no external force is able to carry out military campaigns in this zone without the presence of a minimal infrastructure, the creation of which apparently is not sufficiently attractive for the West at present and is not part of its plans.33 The presence of Russian peacekeeping forces in the region is also probably restricting their action, but even if they were not there, it is unlikely that Western countries would become involved in these conflicts, since they set little store by achieving the set goals.

On 30 January of this year, the U.N. Security Council adopted another resolution (No. 1462) on the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict, once more confirming its adherence to continuing efforts to promote the stabilization of the situation and the achievement of a comprehensive political settlement, which must include settlement of Abkhazias political status within the State of Georgia, and extended the mandate of the U.N. Observer Mission in Georgia to 31 July, 2003. At this stage, the situation is extremely tense, demanding from the U.N. immediate changes in its activity on this conflict. But this depends directly on whether peacekeeping forces will continue their presence in the conflict zone. As representatives from the U.N. and Western countries believe, withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping forces could arouse complications.34 Replacing the Russian peacekeeping forces with U.N. blue helmets is unrealistic since in light of the large number of operations the U.N. is conducting this organization is simply incapable of assuming new peace-building obligations.35 Nor does the U.S. administration support proposals on ceasing the activity of the Russian peacekeepers. Such a standpoint was most likely dictated by the fact that if they are withdrawn, the conflict zone will be left unprotected, and other mechanisms of its security have not been formed. In this respect, there will be a greater likelihood of hostilities resuming and posing a threat to the work of the U.N. military observer mission, since the peacekeepers are considered the guarantor of their security.

At this stage, Western states do not consider Georgias proposal on peace through coercion according to the Bosnian model to be a realistic alternative.36 In the long term, settlement of the conflict situations in the region is a priority task in the difficult process of ensuring European security. But the international community is in favor of settlement exclusively within the framework of the OSCE. In this way, a search is underway for the most effective peace-building alternatives, under which this European structure would play the most important role. In addition, an alternative is being reviewed in which the OSCE will be able to make decisions on granting a peace-building mandate and call on its member states for support, as well as on other organizations for attracting resources and expert assistance.

In summary, it should be noted that the West has made an immense contribution to preventing a resumption of hostilities in the region, to settling the conflict, to alleviating the consequences of the crises, and to rendering humanitarian aid to the local population. But the involvement of many states and international organizations in the settlement process and the responsibility they have assumed for peace and security in the Southern Caucasus does not relieve the countries of the region themselves from contributing to achieving peace here. Of course, the Wests mediation mission is making it easier for them. But relying on Western assistance alone could lead to overly inflating its capabilities and only prolong a resolution to the problem.

1 Examples are Algeria, Angola, and Nigeria, where, despite the civil wars, foreign companies continued their business.
2 See: N. MacFarlane, Western Engagement in Central Asia and the Caucasus, Russia and Eurasia Programme, Royal Institute of International Affairs, London, 1999, p. 6.
3 See: Spornye granitsy na Kavkaze, ed. by B. Coppieters, Ves mir Publishers, Moscow, 1998, p. 133.
4 See: Le Monde, 14 February, 1992.
5 See: Statement Issued at the Meeting of the North Atlantic Cooperation Council, Brussels, 18 December, 1992, point 10.
6 See: U.N. Documents S/24542 (10 September, 1992), S/24637 (8 October, 1992), S/25198 (29 January, 1993).
7 See: U.N. Security Council Resolution 876 (19 October, 1993).
8 U.N. Security Council Resolution 896 (31 January, 1994), paragraph 11.
9 Armenias involvement in the conflict is mentioned in U.N. document S/25600 (14 April, 1993), paragraph 10.
10 See: The Wall Street Journal, 9 March, 1994 (European Edition).
11 See: U.N. Security Council Resolution 854 (1993), paragraph 1.
12 See: U.N. Document S/26023 (1 July, 1993), paragraphs 8-11.
13 See: U.N. Security Council Resolution 896 (31 January, 1994), 5th preamble.
14 See: U.N. Security Council Resolution 892 (22 December, 1993), paragraph 5.
15 See: U.N. Security Council Resolution 937 (1994).
16 The Group of Friends of the U.N. Secretary-General for Georgia was created in 1994 from Germany, Great Britain, France, the Russian Federation, and the U.S. as observers within the framework of Georgian-Abkhazian settlement.
17 The Geneva talks were held on 13 January, 1994, 17-19 November, 1997, and 23-25 July, 1998.
18 See: P. Goble, Coping with the Nagorno-Karabakh Crisis [].
19 Interview between the author and G. Balik, first (political) secretary of the Turkish Embassy in Georgia, Tbilisi, March 2000.
20 Speech by the co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group for settling the Nagorny Karabakh conflict, Carey Cavannaugh of the United States, during his visit to Turkey, December 2000 (document of the First European Department of the Georgian Foreign Ministry).
21 Speech by the ambassador-at-large and special advisor to the U.S. Secretary of State for the newly-independent states, Stephen Sestanovich, to the Georgian parliament, 20 May, 1999 (Information Center of the Georgian Parliament).
22 In 1997, a school reconstruction program began in Abkhazia.
23 In 1998, Abkhazia was allotted $5 million.
24 Aid amounting to $40 million was allotted to restore Abkhazias transportation infrastructure.
25 See: Boutros-Ghali, Report on the Work of the Organization (Sept. 1992- Sept. 1993), Para. 324 and 333.
26 We are taking into account a population of 4.5 million people, almost half of whom left Bosnia, and another 250,000 of whom were killed.
27 The population amounted to approximately 2 million, most of whom left the territory.
28 Before the war, the population amounted to 540,000 people.
29 Letter from the Georgian President to the U.N. Secretary-General, 26 July, 1999; speech by the Georgian President at the U.N. Millennium Summit in New York (September 2000).
30 See: E. Shevardnadze, Georgias Security Outlook, NATO Review, N. 4, August 1993, pp. 7-10.
31 Interview by Georgian President E. Shevardnadze to Georgian National Radio, 15 May, 1999.
32 See: Iv. Khaindrava, Gruziia pered vyboramiGruziia bez vybora, Tsentralnaia Azia i Kavkaz, No. 1, 1998, p. 102.
33 See: Poiski alternativ dlia Gruzii i Abkhazii, ed. by B. Coppieters, Ves mir Publishers, Moscow, 1999, pp. 57-58.
34 See: Sakartvelos Respublika, No. 184, 2 August, 1997.
35 Kommersant, 18 May, 2000.
36 RFE/RL Newsline, Vol. 2, No. 106, 4 June, 1998.

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