Rudolph Atallah, senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Michael S. Ansari Africa Center, testified at a House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs hearing on “The Growing Crisis in Africa’s Sahel Region.”
On the heels of Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s visit to the United States, Energy & Environment Program Associate Director Mihaela Carstei joins CTV to discuss the Keystone Pipeline project that would transport tar sands oil from Canada and the northern United States to refineries in the Gulf coast of Texas.
News broke over the weekend that shots were fired as a convoy carrying Georgian president Mikheil Saakashvili and Polish president Lech Kaczynski approached South Ossetia. There were no injuries, and the convoy returned safely to Tbilisi. Predictably, Georgia is blaming Russia, and Russia is blaming Georgia. Reports vary significantly. RFE/RL wrote:
A spokeswoman for Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili said Russian troops manning a checkpoint in the area fired the shots. The spokeswoman was not present at the scene. [However,] a witness traveling with Saakashvili told Reuters that uniformed South Ossetians fired the warning shots after the convoy came within 30 meters of the de facto border.
The Independent quoted comments by Saakashvili from the BBC's World Service radio. As usual, he didn't shy away from the dramatic:
"Frankly I didn't expect Russians to open fire. I thought they clearly saw that this was an official cortege, this was a high delegation. Clearly it was intended as a provocation, certainly I would never intend to put the life of the president of Poland in danger, that was none of my intention but the reality is that you know you are dealing with unpredictable people."
The incident comes as Georgia marks the fifth anniversary of the "Rose Revolution" that brought pro-Western Saakashvili to power, highlighting the country's continued instability and the increasing challenges to the president's rule. According to the Australian, Saakashvili also said:
"Aggression continues in Georgia. The ceasefire and the European Union-brokered agreement are being violated.
We were attacked because of the success of the last five years, it was the last challenge of the empire against us. We have never faced such a dangerous threat. We need strength and unity. We must believe in the future and have courage. Instead of celebrating... we must show unity as we did on November 23, 2003."
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov got his two cents in as well:
"This is a clear provocation. It is not the first time they are doing so. They are organizing the provocation and then blame the Russian side. Inviting the [Polish] president to Tbilisi and then taking him for a car ride to a different country – isn't that a provocation? There was no shooting from either the Russian or the Ossetian side."
The EU will almost certainly not view the event as demanding a review of the Russian-Georgian ceasefire – nor is there consensus that it should. Similarly, Kaczynski's call for further assistance to Georgia will most likely do little:
"I appeal from this spot to my friends in the European Union to draw the proper conclusions from this event before it is too late. ... I do not regret that trip along that dark road."