Russia’s decision to increase the number of its peacekeepers in Abkhazia has escalated an already “fragile situation,” James Appathurai, a NATO spokesman, said on April 30.
“NATO is obviously watching very carefully the situation in Georgia and in the region,” Appathurai said. “NATO is watching with concern and wants to see all parties avoid the kind of rhetoric that we have seen, which is escalating tensions and not to take concrete steps [that would] undermine what is already a fragile situation.”
He was speaking at a news conference in Brussels just before a meeting between NATO and Russian ambassadors, which was expected to discuss the situation in Georgia as well.
“Russia is and certainly purports to be a peacekeeper and an arbiter with regard to the situation in Abkhazia and it is mandated to be both a peacekeeper and arbiter, but these steps that have been taken, including establishing legal relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia and rhetoric that has been used concerning the threat of force, have increased tensions and have undermined Georgia’s territorial integrity,” the NATO spokesman said.
He said that the issue was discussed “regularly and intensively” within NATO. He said that although Russia “technically had the right” to increase the number of peacekeepers in the Abkhaz conflict zone, the move in the existing political reality instead of easing tensions was “increasing tensions.”
Appathurai also said that according to the agreement the Georgian side’s consent was needed for such a Russian move, but he also added that Tbilisi had made it clear that it would not approve an increase in the number of Russian troops in the conflict zone.