In his annual state-of-the-country address to parliament yesterday, Georgian president Eduard Shevardnadze made a broad overture to Abkhazia. Shevardnadze held out: "the highest possible level of autonomy" for Abkhazia within a federalized Georgia; a "gradual" approach to the return of Georgian expellees; joint Georgian-Abkhaz law enforcement in Abkhazia; cessation of Georgian guerrilla raids there; general amnesty to "all" participants in the 1992-93 war; a review of the recent measure to reroute Abkhazia’s telecommunications through Georgia; a larger Abkhaz share in electricity produced by the Inguri hydropower complex; and the allocation to Abkhazia of a substantial portion of international assistance to Georgia. Shevardnadze disclosed that he has recently discussed by telephone with Abkhaz leader Vladislav Ardzinba a possible renewal of negotiations.
Appealing to the West, Shevardnadze proposed calling a UN-sponsored international peace conference on Georgia with the participation of Russia, the "Friends of Georgia" group of countries — which includes the U.S., Germany, and Britain — and OSCE representatives. And he warned again that Tbilisi would terminate the mandate of Russian "peacekeeping" troops, which expires on July 31, if Moscow continues to refuse implementing the March 28 CIS summit resolutions on Abkhazia and on ensuring Georgia’s territorial integrity. (Interfax, May 27)
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