Abkhazia: Medvedev Meets Bagapsh
Below is an extract from an article published by the International Herald Tribune:
Russian President Dmitry Medvedev met on Thursday [26 June 2008] with the leader of […] Abkhazia, which recently has been the focus of rising tensions in the region.
Medvedev and Sergei Bagapsh, Abkhazia's […] president, discussed issues related to settlement of the conflict, the Kremlin said in a terse statement.
"Bagapsh underlined the outstanding role of Russian peacekeepers in ensuring security in the conflict zone and thanked the Russian Federation for supporting the population of Abkhazia and helping solve socio-economic and humanitarian problems," the statement said.
Russia does not formally recognize Abkhazia's […] government, but Moscow has peacekeeping forces there, maintains close contacts with Abkhazia's government and has granted Russian passports to most of the province's residents.
Russia has accused Georgia of marshaling forces on the outskirts of Abkhazia with the aim of reasserting control by force.
Temur Yakobashvili, a Georgia's Cabinet minister, said Medvedev may have met with Bagapsh to improve his understanding of the issue ahead of summit with the European Union leaders Friday which would touch on the Abkhazian issue. If that was the case, Yakobashvili said, Georgia would welcome that.
The conciliatory statement reflected Georgia's hope that Medvedev, inaugurated last month, could soften his predecessor Vladimir Putin's tough line regarding Russia's relations with Georgia.
Ties between Russia and Georgia have deteriorated steadily since Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili came to power in 2004. Saakashvili's push for Georgia's integration into the West and its NATO military alliance has vexed Moscow, which sees Georgia as part of its sphere of influence.
Moscow recently sent additional peacekeeping forces into Abkhazia, a move Saakashvili denounced as "aggression."
The Kremlin said the Medvedev-Bagapsh meeting underlined the need to observe conditions of a 1994 truce and relevant resolutions of the U.N. Security Council, saying it is essential for making progress in a peaceful settlement.