In the Caucasus, another crisis threatens: Neal Ascherson

Neal Ascherson writing in the IHT discusses the other problem in the Caucasus: Abkazia. While the world’s media has been focused on the school siege in North Ossetia, and the related Chechen problem, is has paid almost no attention to the brewing problems in either South Ossetia or Abkazia.

Neal writes in depth about the upcoming elections in the province, and the likely problems facing Saakashvili. He concludes however:

But Saakashvili and the new Abkhaz president will face two obstacles. One is how to let the refugees return without overbalancing Abkhazia’s demography. The other is gaining Russian approval. That is even harder. As American influence in the region grows, with huge U.S. investments in Caspian oil and trans-Caucasus pipelines, Russia’s instinct is to hold on to any lever in its grasp – including the military presence in Abkhazia that gives Moscow a decisive grip on Georgian policies.

In the end, it is not Georgians or Abkhazians who will solve this dangerous standoff. Only a global agreement between Russia and the United States on the future of the Caucasus will end Abkhazia’s isolation and bring Georgia and Abkhazia to a lasting settlement.

It is a region worth watching closely.