Even if Georgia decides not to extend the mandate of Russian peacekeepers, which expired on December 31, the Georgian leadership will not make them leave the country immediately. This announcement was made to a Rosbalt correspondent by Astamur Taniya, an advisor to the Abkhazian leader, commenting on Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze's decision to delay the extension of the mandate for an unlimited period.
Mr Taniya pointed out that Georgia has repeatedly 'put off' the extension of the Russian peacekeepers' mandate. 'Nevertheless Russian peacekeepers remain in the area of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict,' he said. In Mr Taniya's opinion the Georgian leadership is aware of the fact that Russian peacekeepers are the only alternative and that they are the only guarantee against a new armed conflict. Mr Taniya called on Mr Shevardnadze to negotiate and find a solution to the problem. He also added that if Georgia is planning to expel the peacekeepers and then settle the Abkhazia problem by force, then Sukhumi 'is ready to defend itself.' When asked whether Abkhazia would turn to Russia for help in this event, Mr Taniya replied that it was still too early to say.