Israel Embassy Bomb Places Georgian Foreign Policy in Spotlight
|Publisher||Institute for War and Peace Reporting|
|Publication Date||17 February 2012|
|Citation / Document Symbol||CRS Issue 629|
|Cite as||Institute for War and Peace Reporting, Israel Embassy Bomb Places Georgian Foreign Policy in Spotlight, 17 February 2012, CRS Issue 629, available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/4f439b3f2.html [accessed 10 December 2013]|
|Disclaimer||This is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.|
As Georgian police investigate the source of a bomb planted in an Israeli diplomat's car, analysts say that behind the scenes, officials are frantically trying to prevent the incident from blowing Tbilisi's foreign policy apart.
Although a close American ally, Georgia has also cultivated ties with near neighbour Iran, in a bid to reduce reliance on Russia.
President Mikhail Saakashvili's spokeswoman Manana Manjgaladze said the investigation into a bomb found and defused in the car of an Israeli embassy staffer was "the highest priority" for police.
A separate statement issued by the president's office said Saakashvili "looks on this incident as a very significant challenge to our state".
A series of assassinations of Iranian nuclear scientists, most recently last month in Tehran, has raised fears of retaliation.
Israel has accused Iranian agents of planting the bomb in Tbilisi, as well as another that injured two people in India. Three Iranians have also been arrested in Thailand after what looked like an accident with explosives in their possession.
The Georgian government was not prepared to comment on Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu's claim that the bombs were the work of Tehran and its client Hezbollah.
Georgian foreign minister Grigol Vashadze was one of several top officials who skirted the issue of Iranian involvement.
"We hope no one doubts the effectiveness of our law-enforcement agencies. As soon as their investigation ends, the public will learn our comments," he said.
Georgia and Iran have relatively good relations, and since 2010, no visas have been required for visits of up to 45 days.
Giorgi Khutsishvili, director of the International Centre on Conflict and Negotiations in Tbilisi, said the government was trying to manage complex external relationships while looking to shore up its position ahead of the October 2012 parliamentary election.
"The authorities are trying to maintain decent relations with Iran – they brought in the visa-free regime and signed a series of other agreements – while at the same time offering their services to the United States if the situation deteriorates," Khutsishvili said. "It's very hard to maintain a balance in such circumstances."
Ramaz Sakvarelidze, a professor at Tbilisi State University and a political analyst, said Georgia might be able to use the incident to seek further support from its western allies.
"The essence of politics never changes. If you can exploit a situation for your own benefit, then you will do so," he said. "There is potential in this situation."
Sakvarelidze said Georgia was in a tricky position between Iran and the US, but the possibility of it being directly affected by a regional conflict was still remote.
"When you have normal neighbourly relations with one side, and your main strategic partner on the other side, and these two countries are enemies, then there are going to be big problems. If the situation gets worse, the Georgian authorities will find it hard to maintain their balance," he said.
"But we can take comfort from the fact that they [other states] have avoided involving neighbours in conflicts in similar situations. We may recall how the US took Turkey's interests into account during the Iraq conflict."