Containing the armed conflict in Georgia (Abkhazia)

Containing The Armed Conflict In Georgia (Abkhazia)

Year(s): 1993 – present.

Location: Abkhazia, (de jure) Georgia.

UN Regional Group: Eastern Europe.

Type of Conflict: Vertical (state-based) Intrastate Conflict with Foreign Involvement.

Type of Initiative: A peacekeeping mission and a monitoring mission.

Main Implementing Organisation(s): The Confederation of Independent States, the EU, Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe, and the UN.

Impact: Limited.

Summary: A series of international and regional peacekeeping missions have helped to contain the armed conflict in Abkhazia, preventing a conflict relapse that could have sparked much broader regional confrontations.

Description of Case 

As Georgian leaders moved toward independence during the collapse of the Soviet Union, a series of armed clashes took place in the region of Abkhazia between the Abkhazian and Georgian populations. In 1992, a year after Georgia declared independence from the Soviet Union, Abkhazian armed groups launched an insurgency against government security forces while the local administration declared Abkhazian independence.[1] The fighting continued for over a year, costing thousands of lives and driving 200,000 non-Abkhaz civilians from their homes in the area.[2] Despite providing extensive military support to the Abkhaz separatists, the Government of Russia hosted a series of peace talks during the war. A UN mediated ceasefire in December 1993 created a window for the United Nations Observer Mission in Georgia (UNOMIG) to be deployed to verify compliance and facilitate dialogue.[3] However, despite the presence of UNOMIG, the fighting continued until 14 May 1994, when the Russian-brokered Moscow Agreement ended the conflict and established a The Confederation of Independent States (CIS) peacekeeping force to separate the belligerents.[4]

With CIS forces in place, the international effort to contain and ultimately resolve the conflict began immediately. The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) established its own mission in Georgia to support UN efforts to resolve the conflict.[5] A brief outbreak of fighting in 1998 was successfully contained in six days, resulting in another ceasefire and an agreement on confidence-building measures, while another eruption of violence in August 2008 was ended by EU-mediated talks.[6] However, Russian recognition of Abkhazian independence a few weeks later undermined the mandates of UNOMIG and the CIS and OSCE missions.[7] Many Russian troops remain in Abkhazia following this decision; however, they serve as bilateral partners rather than peacekeepers.[8] As a result, the European Union Monitoring Mission, which was deployed in September 2008 to monitor the latest agreement is the only international presence in the area.[9] Although the conflict remains unresolved, Abkhazia has been spared from war for almost three decades.

[1] UCDP. Georgia: Abkhazia. (UCDP, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

[2] Lynch. Russian Peacekeeping in the CIS. p.129

[3] Memorandum of Understanding between the Georgian and the Abkhaz Sides at the Negotiations held in Geneva, 1993. Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020); UN Peacekeeping. Georgia – UNOMIG – Background. (UN, 2009) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

[4] Agreement on a Ceasefire and Separation of Forces, 1994. Available at:

John Mackinlay & Evgenii Sharov. “Russian peacekeeping operations in Georgia.” in John Mackinlay & Peter Cross, eds. Regional Peacekeepers: The Paradox of Russian Peacekeeping. Tokyo: United Nations University Press, 2003) p.91

[5] OSCE. OSCE Mission to Georgia (Closed): The Georgian-Abkhazian Conflict. (OSCE, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

[6] Protocol on Ceasefire, Separation of Armed Formations and Guarantees on Inadmissibility of Forcible Activities, 1998. Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020); Athens Meeting of the Georgian and Abkhaz Sides on Confidence-Building Measures, 1998. Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020); Carter Johnson. “Keeping the Peace After Partition: Ethnic Minorities, Civil Wars, and the Third Generation Ethnic Security Dilemma.” Civil Wars, Vol. 17, No. 1. (2015) p.33

[7] Implementation of the Plan of 12 August 2008, 2008. Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

[8] Vladimir Socor. “Russia Discards its “Peacekeeping” Operation in Abkhazia.” Eurasia Daily Monitor, Vol. 5, No. 196. (2008) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)

[9] EUMM. Our Mandate. (EUMM, 2020) Available at: (Accessed 24/11/2020)