SHEVARDNADZE-ARDZINBA MEETING IN SUKHUMI ABORTED.
Publication: Monitor Volume: 4 Issue: 226
Statements made yesterday by Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze and Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba confirm the collapse of Russian-mediated efforts to organize a meeting of the two in Abkhazia’s capital Sukhumi. Shevardnadze and Ardzinba were to have signed two major documents: one on a mutual renunciation of force and confidence-building measures, and the other on the ethnic Georgian refugees’ repatriation to the Gali district in return for the lifting of existing restrictions on Abkhazia’s external trade.
Tbilisi was willing to sign both documents, despite drawbacks within them, in order to show at least some progress toward a settlement of the conflict. The first document would have legitimized the existence of an Abkhaz military establishment–a concession apt to be carried over into any subsequent political agreement. The second would have limited the refugees’ repatriation to one district only, lifting the “sanctions” introduced in response to the ethnic cleansing of Georgians from all of Abkhazia. Shevardnadze’s consent to travel to Sukhumi constituted a further political and symbolic concession.
In the event, the Abkhaz side posed additional demands which sank the planned meeting. Ardzinba wanted Tbilisi to (1) crack down on Georgian guerrillas who infiltrate Abkhazia, (2) dissolve the rump Abkhaz parliament based in Tbilisi, (3) allow Abkhazia to disqualify from repatriation certain categories of Georgian refugees and (4) reserve for Abkhazia alone the prerogative of guaranteeing the repatriates’ security, excluding Georgian police from that role. Tbilisi for its part wanted Georgian police to act alongside Abkhaz troops in the Gali district, co-guaranteeing the repatriates’ security. It also remained unclear whether the repatriation would apply to the pre-1994 Gali district, as Tbilisi wanted, or only to the post-1994 district, as the Abkhaz side insisted. The Abkhaz reduced the size of that district by half after cleansing it of Georgians.
In Tbilisi yesterday, Foreign Minister Irakly Menagarishvili warmly welcomed an offer by the visiting Ukrainian Prime Minister Valery Pustovoytenko to host a direct Georgian-Abkhaz dialogue in Kyiv. Tbilisi has long felt that the Russian mediation encourages Abkhaz intransigence (Russian agencies, December 4-7; Radio Tbilisi and Radio Sukhumi, December 7).
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