Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 35

Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov and his first deputy Boris Pastukhov, defense minister Pavel Grachev, deputy prime minister Aleksei Bolshakov, and other senior officials held consultations with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba in Moscow from January 30 through February 16. The Abkhaz side did not relent on its demands for a Georgian-Abkhaz "federative union" featuring joint control over foreign policy, defense, security, borders, customs, currency, and other functions of sovereign states. It also demanded that Georgia and Abkhazia join the CIS customs union as a condition of the peace settlement. Georgia’s ambassador to Russia, Vazha Lordkipanidze, participated in some of the meetings with Ardzinba and rejected those demands. Tbilisi renewed its offers of a far-reaching devolution of powers to an Abkhaz republic with its own constitution, state symbols, presidency, legislature, and government fully responsible for Abkhaz affairs within a federalized Georgia.

The main change thus far in the Abkhaz position is the label "federative union" instead of "confederation" to describe the desired form of association with Georgia as two coequal sovereign states in a treaty-based horizontal relationship. Russian Duma leaders demonstratively came out in support of Ardzinba during the talks, fortifying Abkhaz resistance to a compromise. The Abkhaz appear concerned but not seriously intimidated by the economic sanctions declared at the January 19 CIS summit. Russia’s Foreign Ministry has since reinterpreted those decisions as requiring little practical action, and the Duma’s pro-Abkhaz majority has voted to require parliamentary ratification of any sanctions. In Tbilisi last week, the commander of Russia’s border troops, General Andrei Nikolaev, agreed to the deployment of token Georgian border guard units on the Abkhaz segment of the Russian-Georgian border to monitor the declared sanctions. The symbolic measure will clearly not jump-start enforcement. Tbilisi’s main hope to pressure Abkhazia currently lies in Grachev’s threat to withdraw the "peacekeeping" troops whose mandate formally expired February 15. (8)

Inter-Tajik Talks Break Down.