Tensions rise between Russia and Georgia

The US has objected to a proposed Russian statement expressing grave concern at Georgia’s recent provocative actions, including the arrest of four Russian officers for alleged spying and deploying troops in part of the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

The US has objected to a proposed Russian statement expressing grave concern at Georgia’s recent provocative actions, including the arrest of four Russian officers for alleged spying and deploying troops in part of the breakaway province of Abkhazia.

Russia’s UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin had hoped the UN Security Council would adopt the statement quickly, but US Ambassador John Bolton told reporters that Washington had “a number of difficulties with the draft”.

After talks during the day, the United States late yesterday proposed major changes.

Soon after, Russia’s UN Mission said “the American proposals and amendments change the nature of the draft … and that makes the acceptance of the presidential statement impossible.”

UN diplomats said council members were consulting capitals, discussions were continuing and it was possible the council could meet over the weekend to consider a new text.

Russia called for an emergency meeting of the Security Council on Thursday after Georgia arrested five Russian officers.

Churkin said on Thursday the officers were helping to close down two military bases under an agreement between the two countries. He said the arrests were the culmination of “the serious provocations which have lately been carried out by the Georgian authorities”.

The draft presidential statement underlines the importance of peacefully settling a dispute over the breakaway province of Abkhazia in north-western Georgia.

Abkhazia has had de facto independence since 1993, when two years of fighting with Georgian troops ended. Russian troops have been deployed there and Russia grants most residents citizenship.

On Wednesday, Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili flew to Kodori Gorge, a section of Abkhazia controlled by government forces, to rename it Upper Abkhazia in an effort to reassert control over the region.

Churkin accused the Georgian government of sending troops into the Kodori Valley, which they are not supposed to do under Security Council resolutions. He said the government was also trying to install a de facto government in the Kodori Gorge, when it had said it intended to continue negotiations with the democratically elected government of Abkhazia.

The original Russia draft statement expresses “deep concerns” at Georgia’s actions in the Kodori valley and urges the parties to refrain from any action that would impede the peace process.

It urges the Georgian side “to withdraw its troops and other armed formations from the Kodori valley and to reconsider its plans to install there the so-called ‘government of autonomous republic of Abkhazia”.

The draft would have the Security Council urge that “all existing mechanisms” be used to promote a peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict and call on the two sides to comply fully with all agreements.

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