Aug 09, 2006

Abkhazia: Russia Calls On Georgia, Abkhazia to Resume Peace Talks

A deputy Russian foreign minister said on 8 August that Russia advocated revitalization of a UN-chaired coordination council set up to break a long-standing impasse over the status of a Georgia's breakaway republic.
"We want to return the negotiating process back to a normal track," Grigory Karasin told journalists at the end of a two-day visit to Abkhazia, where he held talks on restarting the peace process between the self-proclaimed republic and Georgia.

Abkhazia refused to attend a four-party meeting with Georgia, UN representatives and peacekeepers in late July following the arrival of a representative of a pro-Tbilisi government in the Kodori Gorge, which is the de facto border between the breakaway region and Tbilisi-controlled territory.

"We will make every effort to restart work of the coordinating council and its working parties on security, return of refugees and economic issues," the diplomat said.

Sergei Shamba, Abkhazia's foreign minister, said the situation in the Kodori Gorge had also been discussed during Karasin's meetings with Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh, UN representatives and the commander of a peacekeeping force, which have deployed in the region since the early 1990s to monitor a ceasefire deal with Georgia.

Abkhazia has voiced concerns about a new wave of violence in the region following last month's deployment of Georgian security forces in the Kodori Gorge to detain the leader of a militia who refused to recognize Tbilisi's rule.

Karasin said recent developments in the area had "seriously undermined the peace process," but did not exclude further talks between Russia and Georgia on the issue, without specifying whether Moscow or Tbilisi would host the negotiations.

Russia is a key mediator between Georgia and Abkhazia, and Russian servicemen are part of the peacekeeping contingent in the conflict zone. Tbilisi has repeatedly accused Moscow of siding with Abkhazia and in July the Georgian parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to declare Russian peacekeepers in the country illegal.