(civil) - Fourteen years of negotiation, led by the UN and Russia, have done little to resolve the conflict in Abkhazia and if the sides continue to flex their muscles and do not resume talks, there could be renewed hostilities in 2007, especially in and around the Kodori valley and the Gali district, the Belgium-based International Crisis Group said in a report issued on January 18.
The report notes there was optimism in spring 2006 when the UN-led Georgian-Abkhaz Coordinating Council was resumed and both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides proposed initiatives on peaceful settlement, reports Trend.
But the sharp deterioration in Russian-Georgian relations and a Georgian military adventure in the Kodori valley have contributed to a freeze in diplomacy over Abkhazia since mid-2006. In the absence of a new initiative, new violence is a real possibility, the report says.
The report notes that Georgia has adopted a new strategy, calling for changes in the formats for negotiations and peacekeeping so as to reduce Russia's influence in both.
Moscow and Sukhumi oppose these changes, and they are not strongly backed by Georgia's Western partners.
International Crisis Group called on the Tbilisi and Sokhumi to sign an agreement on non-resumption of hostilities and IDP/refugee return; to investigate war crimes; to establish the Black Sea Railway Consortium (with Russian and Armenian participation) to restore the rail link via Abkhazia.
The report calls on the Georgian side to lower the Abkhaz government in exile's profile significantly and refrain from holding alternative elections for local government or parliamentary representatives in Abkhazia.
It also recommends Tbilisi to appoint an experienced lead negotiator for talks with the Abkhaz side and to cease efforts to terminate the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping operation until alternatives acceptable to both the Georgian and Abkhaz sides have been identified.
International Crisis Group called on the international community to make non-use of force in Abkhazia a condition for further Georgian integration into Euro-Atlantic structures.