EU's Solana in Georgia to defuse rebel tensions

Western diplomats say a row over Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region, which threw off Georgian control in a 1990s war, has escalated to the point where it would now take only a small spark to ignite new fighting.

EU's Solana in Georgia to defuse rebel tensions
European Union foreign policy chief Javier Solana arrived in Georgia on Thursday for talks aimed at defusing tensions between the pro-Western state and its neighbour Russia over a breakaway region.

Western diplomats say a row over Georgia's separatist Abkhazia region, which threw off Georgian control in a 1990s war, has escalated to the point where it would now take only a small spark to ignite new fighting.

Solana's two-day trip to Georgia -- which will also include a rare visit to the separatists' capital -- is designed to demonstrate European concern over the row and try to restart peace talks that have been largely frozen for two years.

Georgia's allies in Europe and the United States have largely blamed Moscow, which supports the breakaway region, for the new tension.

Moscow pulled out of a trade embargo on Abkhazia this year and sent in extra troops to counter what it said was an imminent Georgian attack. Georgia, which wants to join NATO and the EU, says it has no plans to attack the region.

A United Nations report concluded last month that a Russian air force jet had shot down an unmanned Georgian spy plane over Abkhazia, though Russia denied involvement.

After talks with the Georgian prime minister and opposition leaders in Tbilisi, Solana will travel to the port of Batumi on Thursday for a meeting with President Mikheil Saakashvili.

The location is symbolic because the port is just across the Black Sea from new EU members Bulgaria and Romania, underlining Brussels's interest in the region.

"We now have two EU countries on the shores of the Black Sea ... and that makes these conflicts which were very much peripheral previously into direct concerns of the European Union," Peter Semneby, the EU's special representative for the South Caucasus, told Reuters last week.

Solana is expected on Friday to travel to the separatists' capital Sukhumi, a short journey from Batumi along the Black Sea coast.


Reuters

Güncelleme Tarihi: 06 Haziran 2008, 09:01
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