Abkhazia seeks to renew peace talks with Georgia

The Abkhazian authorities in Sukhumi would like to resume talks with Tbilisi within the framework of the UN Coordination Council according to Astamur Tania, an Abkhazian presidential aide. He announced yesterday that Abkhazia would like to set up a mechanism for keeping the peace in the conflict zone.

Talks sponsored by the UN Coordination Council broke down in September 2001 after a group of Chechen rebels headed by Ruslan Gelaev, with assistance from Georgian troops, launched an attack on Kodori from the Pankisi Gorge. According to Tania, 'the purpose of Gelaev's raid on Kodori was to destabilise the situation on the Abkhazian border.' He said that there are currently Georgian troops in the Kodori Gorge, which is an infringement of Georgian-Abkhazian agreements on demilitarizing the gorge.

The authorities in Sukhumi are insisting on troops being withdrawn from the Kodori Gorge and the opening of a Russian peacekeeping post in the area. However, Georgia is categorically opposed to this. It also intends to deploy reservists from the Georgian national guard to guarantee the security of UN military observers who make regular monitoring trips into the gorge. According to Emzar Kvitsiani, the Georgian president's representatives in the Kodori Gorge, this measure has been made necessary by the recent kidnapping in the gorge of three UN observers and their Georgian translator.

The contradictory proposals by Sukhumi and Tbilisi were made against the backdrop of the first round of talks between Georgia and Russia over the return of refugees to Abkhazia. The talks were held in Moscow on June 16-17. A preliminary agreement on the return of the refugees was reached on March 6-7 in Sochi during a meeting between Vladimir Putin and Eduard Shevardnadze.

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