Feb 22, 2005

Abkhazia: Tbilisi's New Negotiator Unacceptable

Separatist government agrees to coordinate with Russia during talks
A visit of Russia's chief representative to the Caucasus on Saturday prompted the president of the de facto republic of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh to state Abkhazia will act in coordination with Russia in the process of negotiations.

Speaking on Saturday, February 19, Bagapsh reiterated that the Abkhaz de facto government is not willing to cooperate with Tbilisi's newly appointed chief negotiator, the head of the Council of Ministers of the Abkhaz autonomous republic-in-exile, Irakli Alasania.

As the news agency Black Sea Press reports, Bagapsh made the statement during a special briefing with the First Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister of Russia Valeri Loschinin in Sokhumi.

"Abkhazia will consult with Russia, a mediator in the negotiation process, and coordinate its actions when solving the problems of regulation of the Georgian-Abkhaz relations," said Bagapsh according to the news agency.

Simultaneously, Bagapsh stressed the importance of negotiations saying that the economic factors should be given more priority during talks. As he stated, restoration of the Enguri Hydroelectric Power Station and renewal of railway transportation are important factors for securing the economic growth of Abkhazia as well as Georgia and Armenia.

During his visit, Loschinin, who is also President Vladimir Putin's special representative for conflict resolution, spoke about the importance of his meeting with the new head of the de facto republic.

"We are satisfied with the fact that our Abkhaz counterparts seek resumption of negotiations expressing readiness to continue negotiations," said Loshinin whose visit to Abkhazia coincided with the Russian Foreign Affairs Minister Sergei Lavrov's visit to Tbilisi, Georgia.

According to the news agency Apsnypress, the president of breakaway region Bagapsh attacked Alasania's appointment as Tbilisi's chief negotiator and refused to hold talks with members of the autonomous republic's government-in-exile.

The pro-Georgia executive body of Abkhazia fled to Tbilisi during the 1992-93 civil war. On Tuesday, February 15, President Mikheil Saakashvili announced he had appointed the head of the Council of Ministers Irakli Alasania as the special representative for holding negotiations to find a solution of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.

On Thursday, Abkhazia's de facto minister of foreign affairs Sergei Shamba said his government would never hold talks with the government-in-exile, saying Alasania's "appointment as negotiator would mean legitimizing the 'government-in-exile,'" as quoted by Itar-Tass.

Last week Tbilisi and Sokhumi governments was visited by UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno who expressed hope in reaching substantial results by peaceful negotiations.

"I feel quite confident about the willingness of both sides to consider further steps towards a peaceful resolution," Guehenno said. According to the UN, the conflicting sides are set to meet in Geneva sometime this spring with the Group of Friends.

Prior to Alasania, Georgia's State Minister for Conflict Resolution Giorgi Khiandrava served as Tbilisi's head negotiator during talks in Geneva. It is unclear what role he will have now that Alasania was appointed chief representative.

Source: The Messenger