Publication: Monitor Volume: 1 Issue: 131

Russian-mediated Georgian-Abkhaz negotiations reconvened in Moscow yesterday. The main objects of the talks are to define Abkhazia’s political status and to discuss the return to Abkhazia of Georgian refugees. The Abkhaz side has returned to the negotiations after last week’s Russian concessions to it: Moscow relaxed a naval blockade of Abkhazia’s main port and administrative center Sukhumi, and reaffirmed a decision to restore the Abkhazia section of the Trans-Caucasus railroad in cooperation with local Abkhaz authorities, rather than with nominally sovereign Georgia. The Abkhaz delegation had cited that blockade as a reason for withdrawing from last month’s scheduled round of talks in Moscow. In Tbilisi, Georgian president-elect Eduard Shevardnadze said yesterday that he plans to request a change to the Russian "peacekeeping" troops’ mandate, so as to enable them to assist in the repatriation of Georgian refugees and protect them upon their return to Abkhazia. "If this fails again, Georgia will settle the problem on its own," he warned. In a transparent allusion to Chechnya, Shevardnadze admonished Moscow that "one can not fight a separatist regime in your own country while supporting a similar regime in a neighboring country." (15)

Tbilisi offers Abkhazia the status of an autonomous republic within a federalized Georgia, in accordance with an August 1995 protocol supported by Russia but rejected by the Abkhaz side. The latter insists on recognition of a full-fledged Abkhaz state in a purely nominal association with Georgia, in accordance with an April 1994 protocol which Russia supported at that time. Moscow has in the meantime withdrawn its support for a full and open secession of Abkhazia from Georgia.