Letter: Deplorable in any location

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The Independent Online
Sir: The spectacle of 'ethnic cleansing' in Bosnia has aroused universal disgust. But while the Western powers, including our own government, have rightly, if somewhat belatedly, made a pariah of Serbia, they have shown a more ambivalent attitude to this practice in other parts of the world.

The government of Georgia, with which Britain maintains full diplomatic relations, has proved itself as adept at ethnic cleansing as the Serbs (or the Croats, for that matter). Having driven South Ossetians in their tens of thousands into North Ossetia, the Georgian government has turned on the Abkhazians.

The general that Eduard Shevardnadze has placed in charge of the operation has threatened to wipe out the entire Abkhazian people. Yet not one word of reproach has been uttered by any Western government. Instead, they have expressed their support for the territorial integrity of Georgia, which in effect means that they have given their blessing to Stalin's shot-gun marriage that forced the Abkhazians into joining with the republic of Georgia in 1931.

Is it not time the Government made it clear that ethnic cleansing, wherever, and by whomever it is practised, is unacceptable to the international community? Or is it objectionable only when it takes place close to home?

Yours sincerely,

RICHARD CLOGG (Professor of Modern Balkan History)

GEORGE HEWITT (Reader in Caucasian Languages, School of Oriental and African Studies)

DONALD RAYFIELD (Professor of Russian, Queen Mary College)

University of London

London, WC1

31 August