Georgia: Abkhaz officials hail Sochi talks

Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba told journalists in Sukhum on 11 March that the 6-7 March talks in Sochi between the Georgian and Russian presidents "are further proof of Russia's objective approach to, and active role in, resolving the Abkhaz conflict," Interfax and Caucasus Press reported. Abkhaz Prime Minister Gennadii Gagulia, who also attended the talks, told Caucasus Press that they were "difficult" but that the outcome surpassed all expectations. He predicted that rail transport from the Russian town of Sochi via Abkhazia to Tbilisi could be resumed within the next 12 months. Both Gagulia and Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba also expressed approval of the agreement that the mandate of the Russian peacekeeping force deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone will no longer have to be extended every six months. LF

Ardzinba, Gagulia, and Shamba were, however, unanimous in their rejection of Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's proposal to grant Abkhazia broad rights within a federal state. They also rejected the idea of a joint Russian-Abkhaz-Georgian police force and local administration for Abkhazia's southernmost Gali Raion. Shevardnadze told journalists in Tbilisi on 10 March that agreement was reached on that issue a year ago. But Gagulia denied this, adding that the topic was not raised at the Sochi talks, Caucasus Press reported. Ardzinba dismissed the proposed joint local administration as an attempt by Georgia to extend its jurisdiction over Abkhaz territory, noting that the constitution of the unrecognized Republic of Abkhazia does not provide for any joint bodies of power with Georgia, Interfax reported on 11 March. LF


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