Violent incidents and the lack of an effective security regime in and around South Ossetia and Abkhazia create “a dangerous atmosphere in which extensive fighting could again erupt,” a Brussels-based think tank, International Crisis Group (ICG) said in its policy briefing released on June 22.
“Security situation on the ground remains tense. Russia has not complied with the main points of the truce, and the sides have not engaged in meaningful negotiations to stabilise the situation. These factors create a potentially explosive situation in which even small incidents could spark a new conflict,” it said.
According to one Western military attaché in Tbilisi, interviewed by ICG researchers, Moscow intends to use several sites in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, during its planned large-scale military excercises in the North Caucasus, Kavkaz-2009, “which could further stoke tensions.”
The report says that Russia’s move to dismantle most of the on-the-ground conflict resolution machinery by removal of UN observer mission and OSCE monitoring presence is blow to regional security “that will further fuel tensions.” With this move, the report says, further weakened Russia’s “credibility as a peacekeeper and guarantor of stability that was already damaged by its obvious partiality for the de facto South Ossetian and Abkhaz authorities.”
The report, which also describes situation about Georgian internally displaced persons, says that Akhalgori is “the best possible return destination in South Ossetia for ethnic Georgians.” But many locals describe the situation in Akhalgori as tense and many IDPs say they are afraid to return, according to the report. It also says citing interviews with the locals that they do not confirm reports, disseminated by Georgian media, “that they are forced to accept South Ossetian or Russian passports, or that Georgian language education has been forbidden.”
The report notes that the EU Monitoring Mission in Georgia, which observes situation in the areas adjacent to Abkhazia and South Ossetia, does not make its incident reports and general security assessments public. “It should give its reports to all interested actors, such as NGOs and the media, to counteract rumours and false information,” the ICG report reads. It also says citing an unnamed Western diplomat that “most media reports from the conflict zones are false or exaggerated.”