The U.S. Deputy Secretary of State, Strobe Talbott, and Deputy Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Joseph Ralston, paid an impromptu visit to Tbilisi yesterday to hold talks with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Parliament Chairman Zurab Zhvania and Defense Minister Davit Tevzadze. The confidential talks were said to cover: internationalization of negotiations on Abkhazia, establishment of Georgia’s control over national borders, modernization of the Georgian armed forces and the country’s role in transiting Caspian oil.
Talbott was quoted as stating that “no country should regard Georgia as an exclusive sphere of influence”–a stricture clearly aimed at Russia. (Russian agencies citing Georgian media, July 23) Assuming that the citation is exact, Talbott’s statement differs to a significant degree from his statement in Latvia last week against spheres of influence. There he did not use the word “exclusive,” a self-denying qualifier in this case.
“MINE WAR” IN ABKHAZIA.