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Georgia: President Accuses World Community Of Indifference To Abkhaz Conflict

  • Joe Lauria

United Nations, 21 September 1999 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze accused the UN Security Council yesterday of ignoring his country's conflict with Abkhazian separatists.

Shevardnadze, speaking on the opening day of the 54th UN. General Assembly, said world leaders are "unprepared" to deal with the continuing struggle against the Georgian state by Abkhazian rebels seeking independence.

The Georgian leader accused the rebels of genocide and ethnic cleansing, and said the fighting has left nearly 300,000 people homeless and living "in conditions of extreme deprivation."

In Shevardnadze's words: "It is unfortunate that unlike the confrontation in the Balkans, the Abkhaz conflict has been given no exposure on world television screens, and therefore the international community has little awareness of it."

He said he has seen the death and destruction in Abkhazia with his own eyes, and believes what he calls "the germ of hatred" has deprived some people of their humanity in many conflicts around the world.

He said the Abkhaz, with the help of foreign regular army units and mercenaries, have expelled from Abkhazia "the majority because they were not Abkhaz." These include Georgians Armenians, Jews, Russians and Greeks.

Meanwhile, he said, the world community -- the UN, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, the Russian Federation, the United States, France and Britain -- have done nothing to help. Shevardnadze said he believes this is because the UN Security Council failed to assess the situation fairly.

Shevardnadze said he has twice addressed the council on Abkhazia, without substantial progress. He said that the 21 UN resolutions on the conflict in Abkhazia have failed because -- in his words -- "it is impossible to fight evil if you do not call it by its proper name." He said the resolutions do not unequivocally blame the separatist leadership of ethnic cleansing or genocide, which he said was their sole objective.

The Georgian said one reason for foreign interference in the Abkhaz problem is the success of his country's economy and its new civil institutions. He said this is particularly unsettling to the nations that once were part of the Soviet Union, including Russia.

Elements in these countries hope to regain the sphere of influence that was disrupted when the Soviet empire collapsed, he said. Shevardnadze accused these forces, which he did not name, of two attempts on his life and of other terrorist acts against Georgia.

The Georgian leader said his country's economy has thrived despite the Abkhazian conflict. This is mostly because of its strategic position as a transfer point for oil and natural gas. The Baku-Supsa pipeline was opened in April, he said, mirroring Georgia's role in the ancient Silk Road, which may soon be re-established under European, U.S., Japanese and Chinese initiatives.

Shevardnadze said Georgia won its independence at the end of the Cold War not only because the West had spent the Soviet Union into bankruptcy. It was also because of a new way of thinking in the Soviet leadership, in which he served as foreign minister.

He said the breakup of the Soviet Union also has brought on a sense of aggressive separatism based on ethnic purity and equally aggressive violation of the rights of minorities. In his words, "It is not difficult to foresee how chaotic our world can become and what torment millions of innocent people will suffer just because they are found to be ethnically inappropriate."

He said the post-Cold War era has given rise to another value -- international cooperation to help solve regional conflicts -- and a new global attention to human rights.

And so, Shevardnadze said, he is baffled by what he called "the indifference of the international community to the fate of the 300,000 people currently displaced from Abkhazia."