When it comes to the Caucasus, cheeseburgers do not easily mix with conflicts.
A spokesperson for McDonald's Europe has denied to EurasiaNet.org that the US hamburger giant intends to open an outlet in the breakaway region of Abkhazia, located just to the south of Sochi, the Russian host city for the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Last week, Abkhazia, recognized by most of the world as part of Georgia, appeared on the McDonald's website in a list of potential international franchise sites. The inclusion, interpreted by many Georgians as a sign that McDonald's was recognizing Abkhazia's independence (as have Russia and and a handful of chums), sparked a wave of anger within Georgia against the popular restaurant chain.
The spokesperson wrote in a January 16 email, however, that, despite Abkhazia's appearance on the list, "we currently have no plans to develop restaurants there."
"We apologise if this has caused any offence or confusion," she said.
The territory has been removed from the rundown of target franchise locations. The spokesperson, who asked to be identified only as such, did not respond in time for publication to a question about how Abkhazia had ended up on the list.
Its appearance under the heading "Select a Country" had sparked some Georgians to discuss boycotting or launching protests against Georgia's four McDonald's restaurants.
The McDonald's Europe spokesperson, though, said that the drop-down menu "should have read 'select a market'," in keeping with the company's usual terminology.
In the wake of the outcry, Georgia's McDonald's franchisee, Temur Chkhonia, pledged to take the restaurant to Abkhazia, but that prospect appears one that neither the de-facto Abkhaz government (wary of all things Georgian), nor, now, McDonald's are eager to embrace.