Georgia came into being after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.
The states of South Ossetia and Abkhazia gained de facto independence after the 1991-2 war, although their independence is not formally recognised in the UN.
The majority of South Ossetians are ethnically distinct from Georgians and identify with the people of North Ossetia. A referendum in 2006 (turnout 95%) is reported as resulting in 99% endorsement for de facto independence. More than half of South Ossetians are reported to have chosen a Russian passport.
Abkhazia is ethnically mixed, with only 28% Georgians.
Who started it?
At present the Georgians and Ossetians accuses each other of initiating the conflict: what is clear that rapid escalation is taking place, and that civilians are dying and being displaced in significant numbers.
There is an oil pipeline running through Georgia, conducting oil from Asian wells to Europe.
The Georgian leadership has aspirations to join the EU and NATO, which have been encouraged by those organisations.
Russia has an historical fear of encirclement, and is opposed to having NATO bases in Georgia as well as in the Czech Republic and Poland.
Separatist aspiration lies behind one in three of the present conflicts happening in the world in 2008.
Implications for Green Policy
1 We join the calls for ceasefire and negotiations for a just and stable peace.
2 We note again the presence of an oil interest in an area of conflict, which underlines the urgent necessity of breaking our economies from dependence on oil.
3 We note with regret that the expansionist policies of NATO are one of the contributing factors.
4 We reaffirm that the will of the people is the basis of democracy, and if it is clearly the will of the people that they should be independent from their present state, or transfer to a different state, this will should be allowed to be developed in a peaceful and orderly way.
5 We call on the UN to address the problem of separatism from a systemic point of view and to draw up a legal and political framework that will enable secessions to be negotiated peacefully.