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Dangerous and unsustainable escalation in Abkhazia and South Ossetia

Monday, July 7
A series of attacks in the conflict zones are dialing up the tension to a tipping point.

The list of incidents is long and nerve-wracking: market bombings in Abkhazia; roadside ambushes in South Ossetia; shelling around Tskhinvali; explosions in Zugdidi district.

Accusations naturally point every which way, but most observers and officials agree the violence of the last two weeks represents a dangerous—and unsustainable—escalation in hostilities.

Months ago, before Russia’s advance into Abkhazia and when the back-and-forth threats were mostly rhetorical, the prospects for timely political progress were already bleak. Now that the threats are physical and deadly, the probability of an uncontrollable situation is growing.

It takes little for the latest provocation to spiral into a catastrophe. How much longer can the region suffer regular bombings and shootings in close proximity before more sustained clashes break out?

The EU, OSCE and Council of Europe have urged all parties to do their utmost in preventing the situation from escalating, and the United States secretary of state will come to Tbilisi this week. The message they must continue to send, to all parties of the conflict, is that no legitimate interests will be served by violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.