International efforts are underway to help defuse increasing tension between Russia and Georgia, after the latter arrested and charged four Russian officers with espionage.
On October 1 the OSCE Chairman-in-Office, Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht, said he is in contact with the Russian and Georgian leadership and even expressed his readiness to travel to the region to mediate the problem.
"I appeal to all concerned parties to abide by the principles of international law, to abstain from provocations, to establish direct dialogue and to find a quick solution. I will remain in contact with all the relevant parties and work towards this end," the Chairman-in-Office said.
EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana phoned President Saakashvili late on September 30 and urged for caution “against the risk of further escalation,” Solana’s press office said on Sunday.
“High Representative Solana encouraged President Saakashvili to find an early solution to the dispute with Russia and expressed his support for efforts underway… He also confirmed his readiness to facilitate contacts between the sides.”
On September 29, President Saakashvili also talked via phone with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.
Georgian Defense Minister Irakli Okruashvili hinted on September 29 that Georgia may only extradite the arrested Russian officers if requested to do so by Georgia’s western partners.
“They [the Russian authorities] have only one resource at their disposal: to convince our foreign friends to [recommend to] us to show good will and expel these people [spy suspects] from the country,” Okruashvili said.
Meanwhile, in Tbilisi the Headquarters of the Russian Troops in Trans-Caucasus remains sealed off by unarmed Georgian policemen. Tbilisi alleges that one more Russian officer, also suspected of espionage, is sheltering in the Headquarters.
Also on Sunday, the opposition Republican and Conservative parties announced their plans to hold a protest rally outside the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi on October 4 in an effort “to show unity” among the political forces in Georgia, amid tensions with Russia. They have called all political parties to put aside election campaigning ahead of the October 5 and to join the protest rally.
Reportedly only two diplomats and security guards remain in the Russian Embassy in Tbilisi, as the rest of the staff and their family members have already left for Russia as part of the “partial evacuation” announced by Moscow after the four officers were arrested.