Georgian President proposes mixed or EU force to replace CIS peacekeepers in Abkhazia

In his regular Monday radio address, Eduard Shevardnadze suggested on 3 February that the Russian peacekeeping force currently deployed under the CIS aegis in the Abkhaz conflict zone be replaced by a force modeled on that currently deployed in the unrecognized Republic of South Ossetia, Interfax reported. That force comprises Russian, Georgian, and Ossetian service personnel. Shevardnadze also suggested that the EU might send troops from its rapid-reaction force to Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. At a press conference later on 3 February, Shevardnadze told journalists he will raise with Azerbaijan's President Aliev the possibility of Azerbaijani troops serving in such an EU force, BS-Press reported. He said Azerbaijan has "a strong interest" in resolving the Abkhaz conflict. LF

Astamur Tania, who is an aide to Abkhaz President Vladislav Ardzinba, ruled out Abkhazia's consent to the deployment in the Abkhaz conflict zone of a mixed peacekeeping force that includes Georgian troops, Caucasus Press reported on 4 February. Tania said only Abkhaz police should patrol Gali Raion. But at the same time, Tania signaled that Abkhazia might agree to extending the zone controlled by the CIS peacekeepers. Georgian officials have said they will agree to prolong the CIS peacekeepers' mandate, which expired on 31 December, only if the conflict zone is expanded to encompass the entire Gali Raion (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 27 January 2003). Also on 4 February, Azerbaijan's Ambassador to Georgia Gadjan Gadjiev denied that Azerbaijan has agreed to send peacekeepers to Abkhazia, Caucasus Press reported. Meanwhile in Moscow, Russian Federation Council Constitutional Legislation Committee Chairman Yurii Sharandin told Interfax on 3 February that the council is "perplexed" by Tbilisi's efforts to involve the EU in mediating a solution to the Abkhaz conflict. LF


Sergei Shamba said in Sukhum on 3 February that the UN-sponsored Coordinating Council intended to promote confidence-building measures between the Georgian and Abkhaz sides should be abolished unless its effectiveness improves, Caucasus Press and ITAR-TASS reported. The Coordinating Council was established in November 1997, but has not met since January 2001. Following the standoff last April between Russian peacekeepers and Georgian troops in the Kodori Gorge, the Abkhaz said they will not participate in council sessions unless Georgia withdraws its remaining troops from the upper reaches of Kodori. LF


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