RUSSIA BACKTRACKS ON ABKHAZIA SANCTIONS.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 2 Issue: 22
Boris Pastukov, Russian deputy foreign minister and mediator in the Georgian-Abkhazian talks, last weekend came close to disavowing recent CIS policy decisions on Abkhazia approved at the January 19 summit of CIS leaders. Following the summit, Pastukhov had to request a meeting with the Communist leadership of the Russian Duma to explain the Foreign Ministry’s position; both sides subsequently decided to hold consultative meetings regularly. (14). Over last weekend, Pastukhov dismissed the idea of Russian-enforced economic sanctions against Abkhazia as Georgian-inspired "sensationalism." Reinterpreting the CIS summit resolution that any trade with Abkhazia would henceforth require Georgian clearance, Pastukhov implied only state trade was concerned and that notification to Tbilisi would suffice for clearance. Pastukhov also said the abstention of Belarus and Turkmenistan from the CIS decision, together with the need to supply ethnic Russians in Abkhazia, militated against sanctions. Finally, he insisted that the CIS summit resolutions banned only official political contacts with Abkhazia and that Tbilisi would "immediately be declared destructive" if, for example, it tried to stop parliamentarians from CIS countries wishing to visit "their Abkhazian colleagues."
While chastising Abkhazia for rejecting the status of a federated republic within Georgia, Pastukhov insisted the region could also become a state "confederated" with Georgia and a subject of international law. He also agreed with the Abkhaz position that the mandate of Russian "peacekeeping" forces could not be broadened to include repatriation of Georgian refugees without Abkhaz consent. (15). The Russian Foreign Ministry’s turnaround on the week-old policy decisions reflects more than duplicity toward Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze. Its reversal also stems from the need to take into account Communist and nationalist gains in the Duma elections and the Kremlin’s unwillingness to use troops and risk casualties in Abkhazia as well as in Chechnya during a presidential election year.
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