Senior Georgian officials and Abkhaz representatives disclosed yesterday that a delegation headed by Abkhazia’s unrecognized foreign minister, Konstantin Ozgan, conferred with Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze and other officials last week in Tbilisi. Both sides agreed to continue high-level contacts. Georgian foreign minister Irakly Menagarishvili, a participant in the discussions, stated yesterday that a possible meeting between Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba was discussed. Menagarishvili made clear that such a meeting is a long shot at the moment, and that a political settlement remains "impossible on the terms on which the Abkhaz side insists today." But he expressed hope that direct contacts with the Abkhaz side "in talks parallel to the negotiating process" may help moderate the Abkhaz position. (Interfax, November 18)
This last remark apparently reveals Tbilisi’s objective of establishing a bilateral negotiating channel, which would initially parallel and later perhaps substitute for the "official" tripartite Russian-Georgian-Abkhaz format that is controlled by Moscow. As regards Ozgan, there is a perception in Tbilisi that he is a political rival of Ardzinba. The Abkhaz delegates at the Tbilisi talks evidenced awareness of the need to show some movement toward a settlement of the conflict in order to ease the economic isolation of the unrecognized republic.
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