President EduardShevardnadze yesterday charged that “certain forces”–implying Russia’sForeign Ministry–are encouraging Abkhaz intransigence at theGeorgian-Abkhaz talks, which that ministry mediates in Moscow. The meetingsin the Russian Foreign Ministry’s building between Georgian ambassador VazhaLortkipanidze and Abkhaz envoy Anri Jergenia are to prepare under Moscow’sauspices a set of agreements to be signed by Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leaderVladislav Ardzinba.
In his radio address yesterday, Shevardnadze stated that he would not wantto meet with Ardzinba “merely to whitewash the peacekeepers’ reputation,” inthe wake of their “inaction and double game.” The president accused theRussian command of having allowed the Abkhaz to bring artillery and armorinto Gali district, while stopping the Georgian side from bringing similarforces during the recent fighting. (Radio Tbilisi, June 8)
At the Moscow talks, the Georgian seeks agreement on three points: (1)repatriation (in accordance to the May 25 ceasefire agreement) of the 35,000Gali Georgians displaced during last month’s fighting; (2) a start ofdiscussions on Abkhazia’s political status as part of a federalized Georgia;and (3) enlarging the scope of the peacekeeping operation.
The Abkhaz side takes four positions: (1) no discussion on Abkhazia’spolitical status, which Abkhazia has “determined” independently for itself;(2) refugees’ repatriation to be subject to screening by Abkhaz securityauthorities; the accepted repatriates would be “protected” by supplementaryAbkhaz forces to be deployed in Gali; (3) no Ukrainian participation in thepeacekeeping operation; and (4) lifting of “economic sanctions” againstAbkhazia (the reference is to a 1996 CIS decision which had stipulated thatAbkhazia is not authorized to conduct its own external trade). (Russianagencies, June 8)
Meanwhile, the CIS Executive Secretary, Boris Berezovsky, is conducting hisown mediation, in competition with that of the Russian Foreign Ministry. Thetwo have publicly sniped at each other in recent days. Whether Tbilisi canexploit the turf battle is, however, far from clear. Berezovsky publiclyindicated on June 7 that he favors a purely “CIS,” rather than aninternational peacekeeping operation as Tbilisi desires. (NTV, June 7)Berezovsky’s background makes him politically vulnerable to attacks fromRussian nationalist circles, both in and outside the government, whichsupport Abkhazia. Amid the stalemate, Abkhazia yesterday introduced aprohibitive tax of 25 dollars for entry permits to refugees wishing to visittheir home villages. (ORT, June 8)
KAZAKHSTAN’S NEW CAPITAL MAKES INTERNATIONAL DEBUT.