Some news items about events in and around Georgia during the last week which have attracted less attention than they deserve:
PUTIN SAYS GEORGIA HAS FORFEITED RIGHT TO BREAKAWAY REPUBLICS. In his televised town hall meeting, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin said that Tbilisi by its actions had lost the right to have Abkhazia and South Ossetia within its boundaries (kavkazcenter.com/russ/content/2008/12/04/62600.shtml). In other comments, he said that Russia will never leave the Caucasus (http://www.annews.ru/news/detail.php?ID=174029).
MEDVEDEV SAYS MOSCOW HOPES OTHERS WILL BREAKAWAY STATES. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said that Moscow will not require anyone to recognize Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent countries but will be very glad if others follow Russia’s lead in doing so (www.materik.ru/index.php?section=news&id=33619).
SAAKASHVILI SEES NO BASIS FOR TALKING TO MOSCOW. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili said that he does not see any basis for talking to Moscow. (A spokesman for the Georgian foreign ministry said that Georgia was ready for talks with Moscow if the Russian government recognizes Georgia’s territorial integrity in its internationally recognized borders (www.mignews.com/news/politic/world/051208_234207_16995.html).) At the same time, he said, his government enjoys the supporting of incoming US President Barak Obama who the Georgian leader said had indicated that Washington will support Tbilisi “with all its forces” in (kvkz.ru/knews/gr/2010-saakashvili-u-gruzii-i-rossii-poka-net-perspektiv.html).
GEORGIAN GOVERNMENTS SAYS NATO IS BEING SUPPORTIVE… Even though NATO did not offer a Membership Action Plan to Georgia at its recent ministerial, official Tbilisi put the best face on things and said that the meeting nonetheless represented another step forward toward Georgian membership in NATO (www.kavkaz-uzel.ru/newstext/news/id/1234450.html).
…BUT SOME GEORGIANS UNHAPPY OVER NATO’S FAILURE TO OFFER AN MAP. But at least some Georgians, including conservative leader Kahka Kukava expressed their anger at NATO’s failure to take the step they felt alliance leaders had promised and said that Georgia as a result may shift from its consistent pro-Western stance (evrazia.org/news/6397).
NEW GEORGIAN CABINET WINS CONFIDENCE VOTE, PERSONNEL CHANGES FOLLOW. New Prime Minister Grigorl Mgaloblishvili, Tbilisi’s former ambassador to Turkey, won a vote of confidence for his government (www.civil.ge/eng/article.php?id=19872). At the time of the vote, he had made only minor changes, but since that time he has replaced the defense and foreign ministers.
NEW FOREIGN MINISTER ASKS AMBASSADORS TO SUBMIT RESIGNATIONS. Girgol Vashadze, the new Georgian foreign minister, has asked all of the countries ambassadors and deputy foreign ministers to submit their resignations so as to give him the chance to form his own team. At the same time, he indicated, that he does not expect to accept all of these resignations (grani.ru/Politics/World/Europe/Georgia/m.145008.html).
TBILISI BREAKS DIPLOMATIC TIES WITH NICARAGUA. After Nicaragua announced that it was establishing relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Georgia said that it was breaking diplomatic ties with that country. Georgia had had relations with Nicaragua since 1994, but neither country had a resident ambassador in the other (www.ia-centr.ru/publications/3089/).
ABKHAZ FIRE ON RUSSIAN SHIP. Abkhaz shore batteries fired on a Russian ship on patrol off that republic’s coast, an action that both sides expressed regret about but one that indicates just how tense the situation is there and how fragile relations are between Abkhazia and the Russian Federation (www.nr2.ru/moskow/209205.html).
ABKHAZIANS REINFORCE BORDER WITH GEORGIA, MULL NEW CONTACTS. Abkhaz officials say they will work to reinforce the border between their republic and Georgia (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=18122). Meanwhile, however, at least some Abkhazians reportedly are discussing how to arrange some kind of rapprochement with the Georgia authorities (abkhazeti.info/news/1228186741.php).
TURKISH GOVERNMENT TO SUPPORT MUSLIMS IN ABKHAZIA. Although Ankara has not recognized Abkhazia, the Turkish government has begun talks with Muslim groups there on how Turkey can help the Islamic community in that breakaway republic, including the dispatch to Abkhazia of Turkish imams who speak Abkhaz (religion.ng.ru/events/2008-12-03/3_turkey.html).
GOVERNMENT CRISIS IN SOUTH OSSETIA INTENSIFIES. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty fired his finance minister after the latter had been in office only one week, apparently over issues of controlling money flows in that republic but at least in part because Aleksey Panteleyev was an outsider sent into the republic by Moscow (www.nr2.ru/incidents/210101.html).
SOUTH RUSSIA PARLIAMENTARY ASSEMBLY ADMITS SOUTH OSSETIA AS ASSOCIATE MEMBER. The South Russian Parliamentary Assembly voted to include South Ossetia as an associate member, a step that the organization’s leadership said they hoped would make “not a small contribution to the process of t he establishment of the new republic” but one that inevitably will lower the existing divide between republics north and south of the border of the Russian Federation (www.natpress.net/stat.php?id=3735).
TSKHINVALI TO HAVE PUTIN AND MEDVEDEV STREETS. South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty has announced plans to name two streets in Tskhinvali after the incumbent Russian president and prime will cross at some point (evrazia.org/news/6398).
DAGHESTAN NOW ‘MOST EXPLOSIVE REGION’ IN RUSSIA. Although various commentators have warned that the security situation across the North Caucasus is decaying (see, among others, www.islamnews.ru/news-16042.html, www.ng.ru/politics/2008-11-28/3_kartblansh.html and www.interfax-religion.ru/islam/?act=news&div=276220, ever more analysts are suggesting that Daghestan has become “the most explosive region of Russia,” far more unstable than any other (versia.ru/articles/2008/dec/01/situatsiya_v_dagestane).
FALLING PRICES FOR BUILDING MATERIALS MAY CUT COST OF SOCHI GAMES. Dmitry Kozak, Russia’s vice prime minister responsible for the construction of facilities for the 2014 Olympiad in Sochi says that the economic crisis has reduced the cost of construction materials by up to 30 percent, significantly cutting the cost of building many venues and making progress more likely (www.caucasustimes.com/article.asp?id=18092).