Abkhazia says could side with South Ossetia in war with Georgia
The breakaway republic of Abkhazia could assist South Ossetia, another Georgian rebel region, if a full-scale war with Georgia breaks out, a Russian daily said on Tuesday.
The unrecognized republic's security council discussed on Monday measures to help South Ossetia, where at least six people were killed and more than 15 injured in shelling and alleged sniper attacks by Georgian troops on the regional capital of Tskhinvali over the weekend, Nezavisimaya Gazeta said.
Russia has voiced concerns about a new spiral of violence, saying the threat of war between Georgia and South Ossetia is becoming increasingly real.
"If Georgia starts fighting against South Ossetia, Abkhazia will open a 'second front,'" Abkhazia's deputy defense minister, Garri Kupalba, told the paper. "Abkhazia will without a doubt take part in military actions."
Kupalba gave no details as to where exactly Abkhazia could attack Georgia, the paper said.
Abkhazia's foreign minister, Sergei Shamba, said as quoted by the daily that the self-proclaimed republic would "do everything in its power to help South Ossetia within the framework of available agreements on mutual aid."
The paper suggested that Abkhazia, which has no common border with South Ossetia, could attack Georgian troops in the Kodori Gorge, located in the breakaway republic and which Georgia occupied in 2006 in violation of a 1994 ceasefire agreement.
It could also cut the power supply from the hydropower plant on the Inguri River that separates Georgia and Abkhazia, the daily said. The hydropower complex's dam is in Georgia, while the plant is in Abkhazia.
Both South Ossetia and Abkhazia broke away from Georgia following the collapse of the U.S.S.R. in 1991 and bloody conflicts with Tbilisi.
Analysts have also warned about potential acts of sabotage on the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which carries Caspian oil to Europe.
Abkhazia has for now dropped plans to participate in an internationally mediated meeting in Berlin that was to look into ways to resolve the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict, but said it could change its mind again.
"We are waiting for the West's response to developments in South Ossetia," Shamba told the newspaper. "We were invited to Germany due to security concerns in the region. However, today when the international community's involvement is really needed, it remains silent."
"This has caused us to doubt our Western partners' sincerity. Their intention to bring us to the negotiation table appears to be linked to a desire to demonstrate the presence of a negotiating process ahead of a NATO summit in December, when Georgia's admission to a Membership Action Plan will be discussed."
Georgia is bidding to join the Western military alliance, fueling a struggle for control of the strategic Caucasus region between Russia and the West. In April, NATO members decided to postpone offering Georgia membership of the program that paves the way to joining the bloc, but promised to review the decision in December. Georgia had received strong U.S. backing for its bid.
South Ossetia said on Tuesday more than 2,000 women and children were evacuated to neighboring North Ossetia, in Russia, following the attacks on Tskhinvali at the weekend.
[Source: Russian Information Agency Novosti, Moscow, 05Aug08]
The Question of South Ossetia
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