Publication: Monitor Volume: 3 Issue: 151

Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba held a surprise meeting in Tbilisi on August 14 and 15 under the mediation of Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov. Russia’s foreign minister had during the preceding days received Ardzinba in Sochi and flown with him to the Tbilisi meeting. Shevardnadze and Ardzinba signed a joint statement pledging to renounce force, demonstrate patience and mutual esteem, and settle differences peacefully through negotiations both directly and under Russian mediation with UN, OSCE, and CIS participation.

Shevardnadze termed the discussions "businesslike, principled, and frank," implying that differences persisted. The very fact that the meeting took place was "a step toward gaining mutual trust," he stated. Ardzinba and his self-styled foreign minister, Sergey Shanba, interpreted the meeting as an implicit Georgian recognition of coequal status for Abkhazia. Both sides paid tribute to Russia’s mediating role. However, Tbilisi demurred setting a date for a tripartite meeting in Moscow that would include Russian president Boris Yeltsin, Shevardnadze, and Ardzinba. Primakov sought to set up the meeting on Yeltsin’s instructions. According to Georgian parliament chairman Zurab Zhvania, as well as Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili and the ambassador to Moscow, Vazha Lordkipanidze, a Moscow meeting would have to await progress on "specific issues," including the definition of Abkhazia’s legal status as a part of Georgia and a decision on repatriating Georgian refugees.

Georgian state minister (equivalent of prime minister) Niko Lekishvili will lead a delegation to Abkhazia’s administrative center Sukhumi this week for economic talks, including possible joint control over the crucial Inguri hydropower station, which straddles the military demarcation line. (Iprinda, Prime-News, Russian agencies, August 15)

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