Many newspapers have mentioned that Georgia still has some 200,000 refugees from the 1992-1995 conflict in Abkhazia. However, those same newspapers nearly always forget to mention the 55,000 Ossetians who were driven out of Georgia in 1991.
Before 1990 Georgia contained about 170,000 Ossetians. 70,000 lived in the South Ossetia and the remaining 100,000 lived in cities like Gori and Tblisi and in an area south of Gori. There Ossetians south of Gori had gone there in the 19th century. When Georgia passed from the Turkish and Persian to the Russian sphere of influence around 1800 the Persian emperor evacuated Georgia's Muslims. This left many areas empty that were filled by immigrants: the Ossetians were part of a broader immigration wave. The Ossetains in South Ossetia have lived there for many centuries.
at the end of the 1980s Georgia saw a fierce nationalism. The fact that Georgians formed only 70% of the population and that the Georgians themselves are divided between four different nations with different languages (Georgian, Mingrelian, Svan and Laz) would have suggested a federal state, but instead they took a centralized government. The first president, Gamsachurdia, campaigned under the slogan "Georgia for the Georgians" and one of his acts was to abolish the autonomy of South Ossetia - under the pretext that it hadn't had autonomy in the short time that Georgia was independent (1918-1920). The Ossetians didn't accept this and instead declared independence. Next the Georgians occupied Tskhinvali. A war followed and although there was no fighting in the Georgian cities or the area south of Gori the Georgians took the opportunity to cleanse many of the Ossetians who lived there. Since then it has been impossible for them to return as they cannot get their properties back. Those properties have been usurped by Georgians and the Ossetians are required to go to the court of law to get it back. This results in never ending procedures.
Many of the exiled Ossetians have been resettled in the Vladikavkaz region in North Ossetia.
The 1991 war was ended with an armistice that gave an important role to Russian peacekeepers. But when Saakashvili came to power in 2004 he promised to bring South Ossetia (and Abkhazia) back under Georgian control. This resulted in a flurry of actions that polarized the conflict. Georgia installed rivaling government for both Abkhazia and South Ossetia and increased harassment. There were some distracting actions, like a Georgian property restitution law for which no money was set aside, so it looked like the West was supposed to pay off the cleansed Ossetians. A few Ossetians were set up in a kind of Potemkin village by the Georgian government.
However, real refugee returns never got from the ground. I think that alone should be enough reason for the West not to support Georgian efforts to take control of South Ossetia and Abkhazia. Otherwise we support ethnic cleansing.
It should be noted that the cleansing of the Ossetians happened before the Georgians were cleansed from Abkhazia. I think a proper solution for those Ossetian refugees will be crucial in establishing a climate of trust in which the Abkhazian conflict can be solved.