Showing posts tagged as "georgia"

Showing posts tagged georgia

10 Apr
"It would not help Abkhazia’s cause to restrict its access to the outside world to its road to Russia."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"The international community, particularly the EU, should remain engaged in Abkhazia, seeking ways to increase the entity’s access and exposure to information and expertise."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"All sides would benefit by seeking creative ways to facilitate trade and travel across the ABL for family visits, and trade, health or education purposes."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

"Despite the seeming intractability of political questions, taking up any chance to enhance security in the region would be positive for all sides."

—from Crisis Group’s recent report, Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation
Tbilisi/Sukhumi/Moscow/Istanbul/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2013
More than two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the three-sided conflict involving breakaway Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia is far from a solution, so all should concentrate on achievable goals, including intensified dialogue on basic security-related and humanitarian issues.
Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation, the latest International Crisis Group report, analyses developments after Georgia’s peaceful change of government in 2012 stoked optimism about reducing open hostility with its would-be secessionist entity as well as Russia. Since the 2008 war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state, diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been cut, and the entity’s financial and military security has become fully dependent on Russia.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
All sides should agree to a joint statement on non-use of force as proposed by the co-chairs – the UN, EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – of the Geneva International Discussions. Delay has largely been caused by political posturing. They should also resume cooperation in the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and in fact-finding missions when security incidents occur.
Georgia should show good-will by suspending its annual efforts to obtain a UN General Assembly resolution on Georgian internally displaced persons (IDPs). In exchange, the Abkhaz should commit to a real dialogue on property return and compensation for the IDPs, who continue to be denied the right to return.
Maximum flexibility is needed on humanitarian issues. It is urgent for the Abkhaz and Russians to honor their promises to increase freedom of movement for the ethnic Georgians in the Gali district, while Georgia should streamline or remove legal hurdles, so that residents of Abkhazia can, for instance, obtain visas to study abroad or more easily engage in trade.
External actors, particularly the EU, should make all efforts to remain engaged in Abkhazia, despite the entity’s increasing international isolation, eviction of a large UN monitoring mission and moves to limit the work of the few NGOs still on the ground.
“With no prospect of widespread recognition anytime soon and its development fully tied to Russia, Abkhazia’s ‘independence project’ faces an uphill battle”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “But enhancing security in the region, especially with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to take place just a few kilometres from Abkhazia and a string of alleged terror plots uncovered in the entity over the last year, should be a natural priority for all sides”.
“While Moscow’s disregard of the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire that required it to withdraw troops should in no way be acquiesced in, Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia should still take steps to gradually repair ties”, says Europe Program Director Sabine Freizer. “For the immediate future, there should be a focus on small steps, including dialogue and basic security-related and humanitarian issues. Otherwise this no-win, long-term conflict will continue to harm all parties”.
FULL REPORT

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation

Tbilisi/Sukhumi/Moscow/Istanbul/Brussels  |   10 Apr 2013

More than two decades after the Soviet Union’s collapse, the three-sided conflict involving breakaway Abkhazia, Georgia and Russia is far from a solution, so all should concentrate on achievable goals, including intensified dialogue on basic security-related and humanitarian issues.

Abkhazia: The Long Road to Reconciliation, the latest International Crisis Group report, analyses developments after Georgia’s peaceful change of government in 2012 stoked optimism about reducing open hostility with its would-be secessionist entity as well as Russia. Since the 2008 war and Russian recognition of Abkhazia as an independent state, diplomatic relations between Moscow and Tbilisi have been cut, and the entity’s financial and military security has become fully dependent on Russia.

The report’s major findings and recommendations are:

  • All sides should agree to a joint statement on non-use of force as proposed by the co-chairs – the UN, EU and Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe – of the Geneva International Discussions. Delay has largely been caused by political posturing. They should also resume cooperation in the Gali Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism and in fact-finding missions when security incidents occur.
  • Georgia should show good-will by suspending its annual efforts to obtain a UN General Assembly resolution on Georgian internally displaced persons (IDPs). In exchange, the Abkhaz should commit to a real dialogue on property return and compensation for the IDPs, who continue to be denied the right to return.
  • Maximum flexibility is needed on humanitarian issues. It is urgent for the Abkhaz and Russians to honor their promises to increase freedom of movement for the ethnic Georgians in the Gali district, while Georgia should streamline or remove legal hurdles, so that residents of Abkhazia can, for instance, obtain visas to study abroad or more easily engage in trade.
  • External actors, particularly the EU, should make all efforts to remain engaged in Abkhazia, despite the entity’s increasing international isolation, eviction of a large UN monitoring mission and moves to limit the work of the few NGOs still on the ground.

“With no prospect of widespread recognition anytime soon and its development fully tied to Russia, Abkhazia’s ‘independence project’ faces an uphill battle”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “But enhancing security in the region, especially with the 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics to take place just a few kilometres from Abkhazia and a string of alleged terror plots uncovered in the entity over the last year, should be a natural priority for all sides”.

“While Moscow’s disregard of the EU-mediated 2008 ceasefire that required it to withdraw troops should in no way be acquiesced in, Russia, Georgia and Abkhazia should still take steps to gradually repair ties”, says Europe Program Director Sabine Freizer. “For the immediate future, there should be a focus on small steps, including dialogue and basic security-related and humanitarian issues. Otherwise this no-win, long-term conflict will continue to harm all parties”.

FULL REPORT

14 Jan

Lawrence Sheets, South Caucasus Project Director, talks about International Crisis Group’s work in the South Caucasus, promoting communication across the lines of the region’s most intractable conflicts.

18 Dec
Georgia: Making Cohabitation Work
Tbilisi/Istanbul/Brussels  |   18 Dec 2012
Whether the smooth transfer of power Georgia achieved after October’s bitter election sets a standard for democracy in its region depends on whether the new government can strengthen the independence and accountability of state institutions in what remains a fragile, even potentially explosive political climate.
Georgia: Making Cohabitation Work, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the uneasy transition in progress in Tbilisi. President Mikheil Saakashvili, who remains in office but is not eligible to stand for a new term in the October 2013 elections, accepted the electoral defeat of his United National Movement (UNM) and indicated he would exercise his extensive constitutional powers with restraint to lessen the prospect of a destabilising confrontation. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the new prime minister who led his Georgian Dream (GD) coalition to victory, said he was ready to work with his arch-rival. However, relations between the sides remain deeply strained.
"Georgia’s peaceful transfer of partial power as a result of the October elections was an encouraging and rare example of a post-Soviet government being changed at the ballot box”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “The immediate priority of the new government should be to build trust in the judiciary, the penal service and the powerful interior ministry”.
Tensions have been growing between the old and the new government due to the arrest of former and current officials with ties to the UNM on charges ranging from abuse of office to torture, fuelling perception that political retribution is overtaking the vital need for institutional reform. So far there is no proof that the arrests have been politically motivated, but it is important to carry out the investigations and any trials transparently so as to maintain public confidence. The government should also prioritise severe crimes, while establishing commissions to review criminal cases completed under the previous government and offering amnesties and compensation for lesser crimes so that it can concentrate on the vital need to implement institutional reform.
To build and maintain the necessary consensus for such reform, it also needs to communicate its agenda regularly to the public, for instance through cabinet meetings whose deliberations are reported in all media outlets. Periodic publicised meetings between the president and the prime minister would boost stability.
Abuses in the prisons and the legal system were a major cause of the previous government’s electoral defeat. The courts, as well as prosecutors, must be given real independence from political pressures. The highly influential High Council of Justice should be depoliticised and the interior ministry made more transparent and subject to civilian oversight.
Georgia is also faced with the difficult task of trying to repair hostile relations with Russia. The two countries fought a short war in 2008 that in effect left Russian troops in control of the breakaway entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To rebuild ties, efforts should center on non-political areas where progress might be attainable in the short term. As a first step, even while diplomatic relations remain frozen, both countries might open trade liaison missions, in Moscow and Tbilisi respectively.
“The government’s focus should not be on the past but on strengthening institutions for the future, especially boosting the parliament’s oversight”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Georgia’s friends should support the reform effort with sustained technical and political engagement, and help prevent any squandering of fragile democratic gains”.
FULL BRIEFING 

Georgia: Making Cohabitation Work

Tbilisi/Istanbul/Brussels  |   18 Dec 2012

Whether the smooth transfer of power Georgia achieved after October’s bitter election sets a standard for democracy in its region depends on whether the new government can strengthen the independence and accountability of state institutions in what remains a fragile, even potentially explosive political climate.

Georgia: Making Cohabitation Work, the latest briefing from the International Crisis Group, examines the uneasy transition in progress in Tbilisi. President Mikheil Saakashvili, who remains in office but is not eligible to stand for a new term in the October 2013 elections, accepted the electoral defeat of his United National Movement (UNM) and indicated he would exercise his extensive constitutional powers with restraint to lessen the prospect of a destabilising confrontation. Bidzina Ivanishvili, the new prime minister who led his Georgian Dream (GD) coalition to victory, said he was ready to work with his arch-rival. However, relations between the sides remain deeply strained.

"Georgia’s peaceful transfer of partial power as a result of the October elections was an encouraging and rare example of a post-Soviet government being changed at the ballot box”, says Lawrence Sheets, Crisis Group’s South Caucasus Project Director. “The immediate priority of the new government should be to build trust in the judiciary, the penal service and the powerful interior ministry”.

Tensions have been growing between the old and the new government due to the arrest of former and current officials with ties to the UNM on charges ranging from abuse of office to torture, fuelling perception that political retribution is overtaking the vital need for institutional reform. So far there is no proof that the arrests have been politically motivated, but it is important to carry out the investigations and any trials transparently so as to maintain public confidence. The government should also prioritise severe crimes, while establishing commissions to review criminal cases completed under the previous government and offering amnesties and compensation for lesser crimes so that it can concentrate on the vital need to implement institutional reform.

To build and maintain the necessary consensus for such reform, it also needs to communicate its agenda regularly to the public, for instance through cabinet meetings whose deliberations are reported in all media outlets. Periodic publicised meetings between the president and the prime minister would boost stability.

Abuses in the prisons and the legal system were a major cause of the previous government’s electoral defeat. The courts, as well as prosecutors, must be given real independence from political pressures. The highly influential High Council of Justice should be depoliticised and the interior ministry made more transparent and subject to civilian oversight.

Georgia is also faced with the difficult task of trying to repair hostile relations with Russia. The two countries fought a short war in 2008 that in effect left Russian troops in control of the breakaway entities of Abkhazia and South Ossetia. To rebuild ties, efforts should center on non-political areas where progress might be attainable in the short term. As a first step, even while diplomatic relations remain frozen, both countries might open trade liaison missions, in Moscow and Tbilisi respectively.

“The government’s focus should not be on the past but on strengthening institutions for the future, especially boosting the parliament’s oversight”, says Sabine Freizer, Crisis Group’s Europe Program Director. “Georgia’s friends should support the reform effort with sustained technical and political engagement, and help prevent any squandering of fragile democratic gains”.

FULL BRIEFING 

5 Nov
CrisisWatch N°111, 1 November 2012
Renewed violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 21 October involving Muslim and Buddhist communities. Official figures report the death toll from the latest outbreak of inter-communal tensions, which mostly involved Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine, to be at least 89, with 136 injured and over 5,000 houses torched. More than 30,000 people were officially displaced. Human rights groups have used satellite imagery to show that Rohingya and other Muslim communities are being explicitly targeted in this latest wave of violence.
On 19 October a car bomb in Beirut killed eight people, including Lebanon’s intelligence chief Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, and wounded dozens. The opposition alleged Syrian involvement and demanded the resignation of the pro-Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government. The attack triggered demonstrations and clashes in the capital and elsewhere, deepening sectarian tension as Lebanon struggles to contain spill over from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
On the Korean peninsula, Seoul announced on 7 October a deal with the United States to extend the range of its ballistic missile system. North Korea condemned the move as part of a plan to invade, and claimed it has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. On 19 October Pyongyang – in its most strident warning for months – threatened military strikes on a location from which South Korean activists planned to launch an airdrop of propaganda leaflets to the North.
In Guinea-Bissau, an alleged coup attempt on 21 October by a group of ethnic Felupe soldiers failed. Suspected coup leader Captain Pansau N’Tchamá was swiftly arrested and three accomplices were reportedly killed, sparking fears of a backlash against the Felupe minority. The government accused Portugal, former army Chief of Staff Zamora Induta and ousted Prime Minister Carlos Júnior of involvement in the coup. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, maintain the coup was a government ploy aimed at giving it a pretext to clamp down on its critics.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest and best-armed insurgent group. The agreement, which envisions the creation of a new autonomous regional government called the Bangsamoro to replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the best chance for peace with the MILF for years. Both parties have been careful to underscore the hard work that lies ahead in implementing the agreement’s terms.
Historic parliamentary elections in Georgia marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. President Saakashvili quickly conceded the defeat of his United National Movement to the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, which took 55 per cent of the vote. International observers praised the conduct of the elections. The change in government might signal a thaw in Georgia’s relations with Russia, although the new government has ruled out restoring diplomatic ties as long as Moscow continues to recognise the independence of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
FULL CRISIS WATCH 
Photo: Oscar Buhl/Wikimedia Commons

CrisisWatch N°111, 1 November 2012

Renewed violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 21 October involving Muslim and Buddhist communities. Official figures report the death toll from the latest outbreak of inter-communal tensions, which mostly involved Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine, to be at least 89, with 136 injured and over 5,000 houses torched. More than 30,000 people were officially displaced. Human rights groups have used satellite imagery to show that Rohingya and other Muslim communities are being explicitly targeted in this latest wave of violence.

On 19 October a car bomb in Beirut killed eight people, including Lebanon’s intelligence chief Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, and wounded dozens. The opposition alleged Syrian involvement and demanded the resignation of the pro-Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government. The attack triggered demonstrations and clashes in the capital and elsewhere, deepening sectarian tension as Lebanon struggles to contain spill over from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

On the Korean peninsula, Seoul announced on 7 October a deal with the United States to extend the range of its ballistic missile system. North Korea condemned the move as part of a plan to invade, and claimed it has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. On 19 October Pyongyang – in its most strident warning for months – threatened military strikes on a location from which South Korean activists planned to launch an airdrop of propaganda leaflets to the North.

In Guinea-Bissau, an alleged coup attempt on 21 October by a group of ethnic Felupe soldiers failed. Suspected coup leader Captain Pansau N’Tchamá was swiftly arrested and three accomplices were reportedly killed, sparking fears of a backlash against the Felupe minority. The government accused Portugal, former army Chief of Staff Zamora Induta and ousted Prime Minister Carlos Júnior of involvement in the coup. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, maintain the coup was a government ploy aimed at giving it a pretext to clamp down on its critics.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest and best-armed insurgent group. The agreement, which envisions the creation of a new autonomous regional government called the Bangsamoro to replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the best chance for peace with the MILF for years. Both parties have been careful to underscore the hard work that lies ahead in implementing the agreement’s terms.

Historic parliamentary elections in Georgia marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. President Saakashvili quickly conceded the defeat of his United National Movement to the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, which took 55 per cent of the vote. International observers praised the conduct of the elections. The change in government might signal a thaw in Georgia’s relations with Russia, although the new government has ruled out restoring diplomatic ties as long as Moscow continues to recognise the independence of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

FULL CRISIS WATCH 

Photo: Oscar Buhl/Wikimedia Commons

1 Nov
CrisisWatch N°111
Renewed violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 21 October involving Muslim and Buddhist communities. Official figures report the death toll from the latest outbreak of inter-communal tensions, which mostly involved Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine, to be at least 89, with 136 injured and over 5,000 houses torched. More than 30,000 people were officially displaced. Human rights groups have used satellite imagery to show that Rohingya and other Muslim communities are being explicitly targeted in this latest wave of violence.
On 19 October a car bomb in Beirut killed eight people, including Lebanon’s intelligence chief Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, and wounded dozens. The opposition alleged Syrian involvement and demanded the resignation of the pro-Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government. The attack triggered demonstrations and clashesin the capital and elsewhere, deepening sectarian tension as Lebanon struggles to contain spill over from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.
On the Korean peninsula, Seoul announced on 7 October a deal with the United States to extend the range of its ballistic missile system. North Korea condemned the move as part of a plan to invade, and claimed it has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. On 19 October Pyongyang – in its most strident warning for months – threatened military strikes on a location from which South Korean activists planned to launch an airdrop of propaganda leaflets to the North.
In Guinea-Bissau, an alleged coup attempt on 21 October by a group of ethnic Felupe soldiers failed. Suspected coup leader Captain Pansau N’Tchamá was swiftly arrested and three accomplices were reportedly killed, sparking fears of a backlash against the Felupe minority. The government accused Portugal, former army Chief of Staff Zamora Induta and ousted Prime Minister Carlos Júnior of involvement in the coup. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, maintain the coup was a government ploy aimed at giving it a pretext to clamp down on its critics.
Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest and best-armed insurgent group. The agreement, which envisions the creation of a new autonomous regional government called the Bangsamoro to replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the best chance for peace with the MILF for years. Both parties have been careful to underscore the hard work that lies ahead in implementing the agreement’s terms.
Historic parliamentary elections in Georgia marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. President Saakashvili quickly conceded the defeat of his United National Movement to the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, which took 55 per cent of the vote. International observers praised the conduct of the elections. The change in government might signal a thaw in Georgia’s relations with Russia, although the new government has ruled out restoring diplomatic ties as long as Moscow continues to recognise the independence of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.
CrisisWatch
Photo: Austcare/Flickr

CrisisWatch N°111

Renewed violence broke out in Myanmar’s Rakhine State on 21 October involving Muslim and Buddhist communities. Official figures report the death toll from the latest outbreak of inter-communal tensions, which mostly involved Muslim Rohingya and Buddhist Rakhine, to be at least 89, with 136 injured and over 5,000 houses torched. More than 30,000 people were officially displaced. Human rights groups have used satellite imagery to show that Rohingya and other Muslim communities are being explicitly targeted in this latest wave of violence.

On 19 October a car bomb in Beirut killed eight people, including Lebanon’s intelligence chief Brigadier-General Wissam al-Hassan, and wounded dozens. The opposition alleged Syrian involvement and demanded the resignation of the pro-Syrian Prime Minister Najib Mikati and his government. The attack triggered demonstrations and clashesin the capital and elsewhere, deepening sectarian tension as Lebanon struggles to contain spill over from the conflict in neighbouring Syria.

On the Korean peninsula, Seoul announced on 7 October a deal with the United States to extend the range of its ballistic missile system. North Korea condemned the move as part of a plan to invade, and claimed it has missiles capable of reaching the U.S. mainland. On 19 October Pyongyang – in its most strident warning for months – threatened military strikes on a location from which South Korean activists planned to launch an airdrop of propaganda leaflets to the North.

In Guinea-Bissau, an alleged coup attempt on 21 October by a group of ethnic Felupe soldiers failed. Suspected coup leader Captain Pansau N’Tchamá was swiftly arrested and three accomplices were reportedly killed, sparking fears of a backlash against the Felupe minority. The government accused Portugal, former army Chief of Staff Zamora Induta and ousted Prime Minister Carlos Júnior of involvement in the coup. Opposition leaders, on the other hand, maintain the coup was a government ploy aimed at giving it a pretext to clamp down on its critics.

Philippines President Benigno Aquino’s government signed a peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the country’s largest and best-armed insurgent group. The agreement, which envisions the creation of a new autonomous regional government called the Bangsamoro to replace the failed Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, is the best chance for peace with the MILF for years. Both parties have been careful to underscore the hard work that lies ahead in implementing the agreement’s terms.

Historic parliamentary elections in Georgia marked the country’s first democratic transfer of power since independence. President Saakashvili quickly conceded the defeat of his United National Movement to the opposition coalition Georgian Dream, led by billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili, which took 55 per cent of the vote. International observers praised the conduct of the elections. The change in government might signal a thaw in Georgia’s relations with Russia, although the new government has ruled out restoring diplomatic ties as long as Moscow continues to recognise the independence of breakaway regions South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

CrisisWatch

Photo: Austcare/Flickr

12 Oct
Georgia’s Political Factions Now Must Govern Together | Voice of America
By James Brooke
Georgia’s future prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, met President Mikheil Saakashvili at Tbilisi’s modern steel-and-glass presidential palace on Tuesday. Afterwards the two rivals posed for pictures, and the president told reporters, “We will transfer the majority of the government’s function to the opposition peacefully for the first time in this region.”
For his part, Ivanishvili said, “I am glad we have had this chance to meet, and I must say that we are a civilized nation, and we can get along in a democratic way with our opponents.”
FULL ARTCLE (Voice of America)
Photo: Uncornered Market/Flickr

Georgia’s Political Factions Now Must Govern Together | Voice of America

By James Brooke

Georgia’s future prime minister, Bidzina Ivanishvili, met President Mikheil Saakashvili at Tbilisi’s modern steel-and-glass presidential palace on Tuesday. Afterwards the two rivals posed for pictures, and the president told reporters, “We will transfer the majority of the government’s function to the opposition peacefully for the first time in this region.”

For his part, Ivanishvili said, “I am glad we have had this chance to meet, and I must say that we are a civilized nation, and we can get along in a democratic way with our opponents.”

FULL ARTCLE (Voice of America)

Photo: Uncornered Market/Flickr