30 October 2006

1191) Clouds over the Caucasus

While we await the Iranian or Syrian crisis, the Caucasus problem has appeared on our northeastern border. This well-known powder keg is again going to explode.

Georgia's close relations with the U.S. and its aspirations to join NATO have irritated Russia. Our neighbor is also trying to dominate three national enclaves inside its territory -- Ajaria, South Ossetia and Abkhazia. . .

The system of national administrative territories was founded by Lenin and aided by Moscow's dominance of satellite countries. For example, an Armenian-dominated enclave (Nagorno-Karabakh) was established inside Azerbaijan.

An Azeri-dominated enclave (Nakhichevan) was founded inside Armenia. Whenever any problem arose between the enclave and the main state, they had to go to Moscow to solve it.

Georgians have three enclaves in their territory. Georgian rule is not effective enough to control these areas. Now Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili wants to control them. But Russian President Vladimir Putin thinks that the Georgian drive is actually a game to open a corridor inside Central Asia's oil and natural gas resources to serve American interests.

In addition to that, Tbilisi arrested four Russian officers on espionage charges on Sept. 27. The four were later released and handed over to the Russian side.
In retaliation, the Russians started to oppress Georgian people legally or illegally living inside Russia. There are many reports that Georgians in Russia are encountering difficulties in their daily lives, as the Moscow-Tbilisi dispute is escalating. Shops belonging to ethnic Georgians have shut down.

The shop owners are closing up themselves, as daily visits by tax officials and health inspectors have become unbearable.

Moscow has cut off all air, land, sea and postal links with its southern neighbor. It has also imposed restrictions on bank transfers. Some 130 illegal migrants from Georgia were deported, and around 700 Georgian citizens have left the Russian capital. Deportation flights of Georgians continue. People are being detained on the street and taken to one of eight special stations set up in Moscow.

The Russian-Georgian conflict has also affected migrants from other parts of the South Caucasus like Azerbaijanis.

Russia shows no signs of wishing to lift its sanctions against Georgia in the near future. "The release of our officers does not mean a reversal of Georgia's deliberate anti-Russian policy," Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told foreign journalists. "And there's not yet a good reason for us to reconsider our actions."
This dispute will also affect Turkey. Not only because of the fact that we have Abkhaz and Georgian minorities and these developments affect them, but also the Black Sea alternative that we should take in hand against the European drive is at stake.

Recep Guvelioglu

30 October 2006
©2006 The New Anatolian


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