A series of explosions in three towns in the Georgian separatist region of Abkhazia—Gagra, Sukhumi, and Gali—and a skirmish between Georgian and separatist forces in the Georgian-controlled Upper Kodori Gorge topped the agenda as Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice July 9-10. The Abkhaz separatist government in Sukhumi blames Tbilisi for the violence; Tbilisi, of course, blames Moscow. Sukhumi alleges the attacks are aimed at scaring Russians away from Abkhazia’s Black Sea resorts, just as the summer tourist season gets under way.
Tension is also heightened by reports of a Russian military plane violating Georgian airspace in the South Ossetia conflict. At a joint press briefing with Rice, Saakashvili described Russia as the “elephant in the room” that is disrupting the peace process. “This is a very worrisome development,” Saakashvili said. “The main point is that Russia no longer acknowledges jurisdiction of Georgia in an essential part of its territory.” Rice told reporters she came to Georgia “to make very clear” Washington’s commitment to Georgia’s territorial integrity. She said Moscow needs to “be a part of solving the problem, and not contributing to it.” (EurasiaNet, July 10; IWPR, July 8)
Ruslan Kishmariya, an Abkhaz envoy, made flat accusations that the Georgian Interior Ministry was behind the deadly July 7 café blast in Gali. “We even know the actual names of the organizers,” he said. Among the four dead were the local Abkhaz security chief, Maj. Dzhansukh Muratia. (Press TV, Iran, July 12)
Georgia has asked for an extraordinary session of the UN Security Council to discuss the Russian violation of its air space. Tbilisi withdrew its ambassador from Moscow after Russian fighter jets circled over South Ossetia July 9. Moscow says the flights were ordered to head off an invasion by Georgia. (Russia Today, July 12)