CIS presidents failed during their informal summit in Kyiv on 29 January to extend for a further six months the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed since 1994 in the Abkhaz conflict zone, Russian and Georgian news agencies reported. As on previous occasions, Russian President Putin told journalists on 29 January that Russia will not insist on the peacekeepers remaining in Georgia if Tbilisi demands their withdrawal. The Georgian National Security Council on 26 January listed three conditions that Russia must meet before Georgia will agree to renewing the mandate, which expired on 31 December (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2003). U.S. envoy for the South Caucasus Rudolf Perina told Shevardnadze on 28 January that Washington does not recommend terminating the peacekeepers' mandate at this juncture, according to Caucasus Press. Shevardnadze for his part told journalists upon his return to Tbilisi on 29 January that a bilateral commission will study the National Security Council's demands and the expediency of extending the peacekeepers' mandate. LF
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