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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 15:49 GMT 16:49 UK
Abkhaz conflict looms again
Map of Georgia
Robert Parsons

The 10-year-old conflict between Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia flared into life again on Tuesday amid mutual accusations of air strikes.

Either the Georgian Government does not have any control over its own territory, or it is manipulating the terrorists for its own ends

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Ivanov

The Abkhaz say they have mobilised their troops and reservists to combat an incursion by Georgian partisans, backed apparently by Chechen fighters and, they say, the tiny Georgian air force.

The Georgians categorically deny their planes have been in action.

On the contrary, they say Russian planes have bombed three Georgian villages.

Russia too denies this, but in the past two years it has twice denied, then admitted, to bombing Georgian villages near the Georgian-Chechen border.

Years of UN-backed attempts to reach a political settlement to the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict have borne no fruit.

Georgia insists Abkhazia remain part of its territory, albeit with considerable autonomy; Abkhazia insists on independence.

Sergei Ivanov
Ivanov: Apparently taking the Abkhaz side

The Georgians suspect Moscow may be using Abkhazia to punish them for failing to close off their territory to Chechen fighters, some of whom are known to have taken shelter in the Pankisi Gorge in eastern Georgia.

Russia supported Abkhazia in its separatist war against Georgia in 1991-93.

Now too the Russian Defence Minister, Sergei Ivanov, appears to have taken the Abkhaz side.

Either the Georgian Government has no control over its territory, or it is manipulating terrorism for its own ends, he said.

See also:

03 Jul 01 | Media reports
Georgia and Russia spar over army base
13 Oct 99 | Europe
UN observers abducted in Abkhazia
24 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Georgia
05 Jun 01 | Europe
Timeline: Georgia
16 Mar 00 | Europe
The Caucasus: Troubled borderland
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