Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 13

Boris Yeltsin and Eduard Shevardnadze conferred on measures to settle the Abkhazia conflict in Moscow yesterday on the eve of the CIS summit. The two presidents were said to agree on the need to accelerate the settlement process and join forces against "aggressive separatism." According to the Georgian version, the Russian side agreed "in principle" to impose a full economic blockade on Abkhazia, to use Russian naval and aviation forces to interdict Abkhaz imports and exports, to ban Abkhaz banking operations in or via Russia, and to grant Georgia full control over humanitarian assistance to the region. (Russian land border troops and coastal guard ships have restricted commercial traffic to and from Abkhazia since the beginning of the war in Chechnya.) Yeltsin and Shevardnadze also discussed granting the Russian "peacekeeping" troops in Abkhazia police powers and authority to ensure the return of Georgian refugees. Georgia has demanded this expansion of the peacekeeping mandate as a condition for its renewal.

Meanwhile, the Abkhaz Supreme Soviet warned that it would refuse to renew the peacekeeping troops’ mandate if it is broadened to include police functions. (15) The 3,000 Russian peacekeeping troops located in Abkhazia operate under a notional CIS mandate that is subject to the consent of both belligerents. The decision awarding the troops police powers largely depends on Russia, which is more likely to manipulate the situation than to adopt a clear-cut course of action. In related news, the mandate of the 136 UN observers stationed in Abkhazia to monitor the cease-fire was extended January 12 for a regular six-month period under a UN Security Council resolution.

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