-------------------- News from Abkhazia --------------------

 Russian Diplomat: Georgia Seeking War on Abkhazia, S. Ossetia


Moscow, Russia's envoy to NATO has claimed that Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili is seeking to use armed force to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under Georgian sovereignty and that he is trying to secure the support of NATO in achieving that goal.


"In my view, all the problems [in Georgia's conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia] stem not only from the aggressive rhetoric, but also from the aggressive plans of Mr. Saakashvili, who simultaneously wants to draw NATO into somebody else's headache, who wants to secure NATO support for the use of armed force to resolve the conflicts with Abkhazia and South Ossetia," Dmitry Rogozin told Russian television channel Vesti 24.


"Strange as it is, Mr. Saakashvili still hasn't abandoned his plans to solve his territorial problem in a military way without suspecting or realizing that in actual fact there can be no military solutions to ethnic conflicts, least of all in the Caucasus," Rogozin said.


"And this is happening despite the fact that NATO chiefs are demanding that Georgia show at least some form of calm. Because how can they draw Georgia into NATO if there are two smoldering wars in Georgia itself?" he said.


But Russia, the envoy said, would make sure there is no war in Abkhazia or South Ossetia. He said 90% of the two regions' population are Russian citizens.


"Both the Russian peacekeepers and Russian foreign policy in the Caucasus are the only guarantee that there would be no war there," Rogozin said.


07.19.2008  Interfax


 Medvedev Urges Georgia, Abkhazia to Sign Non-Aggression Deal


Moscow, The sooner Georgia and Abkhazia conclude an agreement on the non-use of force in the conflict zone the more chances there will be to resolve other sensitive and complicated aspects of the settlement process, said Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


Medvedev reaffirmed Russia's resolve to take efficient and coordinated steps to relieve tensions and restore confidence between the conflicting parties, which he said is the only way to unblock the negotiating process between Sukhum and Tbilisi, the Kremlin press service said.


German Vice Chancellor and Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who arrived in Russia on Friday after visiting Georgia, informed Medvedev on his meetings with Georgian and Abkhaz leaders and about efforts Germany is making as a coordinator of the UN Secretary General's Group of Friends for Georgia to deescalate tensions in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, the Kremlin said.


07.19.2008  Interfax


 Withdrawal of Georgian troops only way out of Abkhazia conflict - Medvedev


Moscow, Adoption of joint Georgian-Abakhzian documents on the non-use of force and withdrawal of Georgian troops from the upper part of the Kodor Gorge in the much-troubled republic of Abkhazia offer the only way out of the dragging conflict around Abkhazia, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Friday night.


Only these steps will unblock the process of negotiations between Georgia’s central government and the Abkhazian authorities, Medvedev said as he received German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeyer, the Kremlin press service said.


Steinmeyer, who came to Russia on a working visit after a trip to Georgia, told Medvedev about the contents of his meetings with Georgian and Abkhazian leaders, as well as about the steps Germany is taking as the coordinator of the Group of Friends of the UN Secretary General for Georgia to reduce tensions in Abkhazia and South Ossetia, another region of Georgia that has been seeking independence and sovereignty for itself since the beginning of the 1990’s.


Medvedev said on his part that the sooner the Georgian government and Abkhazia lift the barriers to negotiations, the more chances there will be for the solution of other knotty and highly sensitive problems in Georgian-Abkhazian relations.


The two men also discussed some pressing issues of bilateral relations pertaining to coordination of a schedule of Russian-German political contacts, which Medvedev and Federal Chancellor Angela Merkel had agreed on in the course of a meeting in Japan on the sidelines of the recent G8 summit conference.


The discussion embraced, in part, preparations for a new round of bilateral consultations that Medvedev and Merkel are going to have in St Petersburg in early October.


07.19.2008  Itar-Tass


 Russia insists on Georgian troop pullout to end Abkhazia conflict


Moscow, Russia's president told Germany's foreign minister at talks on the conflict between Georgia and Abkhazia that Tbilisi must pull its troops out of the province before a peace deal can be reached.


Frank-Walter Steinmeier, whose country is chairing a UN group seeking to ease tensions between Georgia and Abkhazia, met with Dmitry Medvedev on Friday evening.


The Kremlin said the Russian leader "stressed that the only way out of the current situation is to adopt joint documents obliging the sides to refrain from violence and guaranteeing security, and for Georgia to withdraw its troops from the upper part of the Kodor Gorge."


"The quicker this is done, the more chance there is of solving more complex and sensitive aspects of Georgian-Abkhaz conflict regulation," the statement said.


Germany's plan for resolving the conflict, which has received the backing of the European Union, stipulates a non-violence agreement, confidence-building measures over the next year to lead to a determination of Abkhazia's status, and the return of around 250,000 Georgian refugees to Abkhazia.


Germany's top diplomat had arrived in Russia after visits to Georgia and Abkhazia. The Kremlin said he gave a detailed account of his meetings with leaders in Tbilisi and Gal (Abkhazia), and on Germany's work as chair of the UN Group of Friends of the Secretary General, set up to prevent an escalation of Georgian-Abkhaz violence.


Steinmeier had earlier met with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.


He admitted to the Russian diplomat that the Georgian and Abkhaz positions remain far apart, and that the current negotiations will require several weeks.


"I am glad we have seen the willingness of our partners to enter into talks that could resolve a range of issues," he said.


Before the meeting, Lavrov had said the German plan for the resolution of the conflict was a step in the right direction, but dismissed a proposed agreement on the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia as unrealistic.


Georgia has accused Russia of fueling tensions in the region with the aim of annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi wants to replace Russia-led peacekeepers in the conflict zones with international contingents.


07.19.2008  RIA Novosti


 Lavrov says 'work must continue' on Abkhazia-Georgia dispute


Moscow, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Friday after meeting with his German counterpart in Moscow that work must continue to convince the sides in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict to begin direct talks.


The German plan, backed by the EU, stipulates a non-violence agreement, confidence-building measures over the next year to lead to a determination of Abkhazia's status, and the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia.


"We agreed that work must be continued to convince, as soon as possible, the sides to begin direct talks," Lavrov said, adding that the sides must themselves find "common ground."


Abkhazia rejected the peace plan earlier on Friday, calling it "unacceptable." Georgia has given its overall backing for the plan.


German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, rounding off a two-day visit to Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia, admitted that the Georgian and Abkhazian positions were still far apart, adding however that this did not mean the peace process should be abandoned.


"I am glad we have seen the willingness of our partners to enter into talks that could resolve a range of issues," he said, noting that this would require many days and weeks of negotiations.


Lavrov and Steinmeier then left for a meeting with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev.


Before the meeting, Lavrov said the German plan for the resolution of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict was a step in the right direction, but dismissed a proposed agreement on the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia as unrealistic.


07.18.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia rejects German peace plan


Gal, Abkhazia has rejected a German-proposed peace plan on the resolution of Abkhazia's conflict with Tbilisi, the Abkhaz leader said on Friday.


"We have rejected the plan. It's unacceptable for us," Sergei Bagapsh said after meeting German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier in Abkhazia.


The German official is on the second day of a two-day trip to Georgia, Abkhazia, and Russia aimed at reducing rising tensions in the region and stopping "spiraling violence".


Abkhazia broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Between 10,000 and 30,000 people were killed in the subsequent hostilities. The two sides signed a ceasefire in 1994 in Moscow.


The German plan, backed by the EU, stipulates a non-violence agreement, confidence-building measures over the next year to lead to a determination of Abkhazia's status, and the return of Georgian refugees.


"We are not going to discuss Abkhazia's status," Bagapsh said. "Abkhazia is an independent state."


Bagapsh also said that the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia could only start only after the withdrawal of Georgian troops from the Kodor Gorge and the signing of a non-aggression pact.


"The return of Georgian refugees to the Abkhaz region of Gal will be possible only after the settlement of the conflict," Sergei Bagapsh said during his meeting with Steinmeier.


"Insistence on their return could lead to a new war," he warned.


Georgia had given its overall backing for the plan, but Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said on Thursday that Abkhazia would not start a dialogue with Tbilisi until it withdraws troops from the upper Kodor Gorge. Georgian troops occupied the area in 2006 in violation of the 1994 ceasefire.


Georgia has accused Russia of fueling tensions in the region with the aim of annexing Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Tbilisi wants to replace Russia-led peacekeepers in the conflict zones with international contingents.


Moscow has rejected the accusations, claiming that Tbilisi is planning to invade the republics. Both countries have accused each other of troop build-ups in the area.


The German and Russian foreign ministers will meet on Friday in Moscow to continue talks on the settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Thursday that the refugees' return to Abkhazia was unrealistic at this point, and that the sides should first sign an agreement not to use force.


07.18.2008  RIA Novosti


 Group of Friends’ visits to Abkhazia seek conflict resolution - FM


Sukhum, Representatives of member-countries of the UN Secretary-General’s Group of Friends of Georgia visit Abkhazia to discuss a new three-stage plan for the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict settlement, Abkhazian Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba said in his comments on the visit of German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier to Sukhum.


“The first stage envisions the resolution of security issues and can be supported by Abkhazia, if the document covers the withdrawal of Georgian armed formations from the Kodor Gorge and the signing of a ceasefire agreement,” he said.


The implementation of economic projects and the return of refugees are the issues of the second stage.


“Abkhazia is ready to support direct economic contacts with the European Union, but speaks for joint projects with Georgia as well,” he said.


“The return of refugees can be discussed in compliance with the earlier signed agreements. Refugees can return only to the republic’s Gal district,” Shamba said.


The third stage of the conflict settlement plan concerning Abkhazia’s future status “cannot be a subject of the talks and the republic’s authorities have no intention to discuss this issue with anybody,” he said.


“We can speak only about the settlement of state and legal relations with Georgia or about Georgia’s recognition of Abkhazia’s independence,” the foreign minister said.


“Even if the document is coordinated by the parties, Abkhazia will begin talks with Georgia only after the pullout of Georgia’s troops from the Kodor Gorge,” Shamba said.


07.17.2008  Itar-Tass


 Abkhazia opens mission in Moldova's separatist region


Tiraspol, Republic of Abkhazia opened a mission on Thursday in the capital of Transdnestr.


Abkhazia and South Ossetia, signed a mission exchange agreement in 2006 with Transdnestr.


"The representative offices opened in Sukhum [Abkhazia] and Tiraspol [Transdenstr] will serve as an effective instrument in strengthening and developing brotherly and friendly relations between our republics," Abkhazia's deputy foreign minister said.

Transdnestrian Vice President Alexander Korolyov said negotiations were in progress on opening missions of some other states in Tiraspol.


The province, along with South Ossetia and Abkhazia, have stepped up their drive for self-rule since Kosovo's declaration of independence in mid-February, requesting that Russia, the UN and other organizations recognize their sovereignty.


Transdnestr proclaimed its independence from Moldova following a war in the early 1990s. Russia has deployed peacekeepers in the area since July 1992, and the negotiation process has been frozen since February 2006.


07.17.2008  RIA Novosti


 German foreign minister hopes for Abkhazia peace plan support


Tbilisi, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said on Thursday that he hoped the plan proposed by his country on the resolution of the Georgian- Abkhazian conflict would find wide support.


"The main component of the plan is starting a direct dialogue," Steinmeier told journalists after talks with Georgian Foreign Minister Yekaterina Tkeshelashvili in Tbilisi.


Germany has proposed a three-stage plan for resolving the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict. The plan stipulates a commitment to non-violence by all the parties involved in the conflict, the gradual return of Georgian refugees to the region, and the eventual determination of the political status of Abkhazia.


"Based on this plan we should find a way out. You will have strong support from the European Union," Steinmeier said, adding that he hoped the UN would also express its approval of the plan.


Steinmeier is to fly to Abkhazia on Friday. He will then fly later in the day to Moscow for further talks.


Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said earlier in the day that Western nations were blocking Moscow's plans for a non-aggression pact between Georgia and Abkhazia by insisting on the return of Georgian refugees.


"Signing an agreement on Georgian refugees' return to Abkhazia is impossible at the moment, as the situation first needs to be improved and trust restored. Only then can discussions be held on the matter," he said.


Russia had earlier presented a draft resolution to the United Nations Security Council calling for a deal on the non-use of force between Georgia and Abkhazia, amid rising tensions and growing fears of a new conflict in the area.


Moscow had earlier also demanded that Georgia first withdraw troops from the upper part of the Kodor Gorge, occupied in 2006 in violation of a 1994 ceasefire agreement.


Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has also made the return of the refuges a condition for restarting peace talks with Abkhazia. He also demanded that Russia withdraw its peacekeepers from the conflict zone and end financial support for the region.


Relations between Russia and Georgia have sunk to a new low recently, with outbreaks of violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


07.17.2008  RIA Novosti


 Tbilisi pins hopes on German plan to resolve Abkhaz conflict


Tbilisi, Tbilisi hopes that a German plan for the resolution of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict will receive wide support, a senior lawmaker said on Wednesday, adding that if it did not then the former Soviet state would be forced to take unilateral steps.


According to the Georgian Foreign Ministry, German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier will arrive on Thursday in Tbilisi on an official visit. He is expected to reveal the details of a three-stage plan for the resolution of the "frozen" conflict.


"I hope there will be an agreement on the joint plan concerning conflict resolution in Abkhazia," David Bakradze, Georgian parliament's speaker, said, adding that if there was no progress, then Georgia would be forced to "unilaterally bring an influence to bear on the deployment of armed forces in Abkhazia."


Russia recently moved to establish closer ties with Abkhazia and sent additional peacekeepers to the region, saying they were needed to deter "new bloodshed."


Tbilisi is demanding the withdrawal of peacekeepers deployed by Russia in the republic of Abkhazia and the annulment of former president Vladimir Putin's decree on closer ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Relations between Russia and Georgia plunged to a new low recently against the backdrop of violence in Abkhazia and South Ossetia. Another factor in recent tension is Georgia's bid to join NATO. The tiny Caucasus state is seeking to be admitted to a NATO Membership Action Plan in December, which would pave the way for entry into the military bloc.


07.16.2008  RIA Novosti


 Georgia, Abkhazia should sign accord on nonuse of force - Lavrov


Moscow, An agreement on nonuse of force should be signed urgently to avert the resumption of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said at a meeting with President of the republic of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh on Thursday.


“We submitted in the UN Security Council a resolution draft that holds it is necessary to avert the resumption of the confrontation. The necessary step for this is to sign urgently an agreement on nonuse of force and to ensure the de-escalation of the situation in the Kodor Gorge,” the Russian minister said.


07.10.2008  Itar-Tass


 Georgia for Zimbabwe - The UN involved in protecting Russia’s peacekeepers


The USA and Georgia want to push Russia’s peacekeepers aside


Yesterday Russia for the first time officially accused Georgia of aggression against South Ossetia and its being privy to the recent terrorist attacks in Abkhazia. Moscow intends to get the UN Security Council to take part in its countering Tbilisi. With its diplomatic advance, Russia is trying to avert the changing of the peacekeeping mission’s format in the zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-South Ossetia conflicts and the involving of international forces into it, which Georgia and the USA have urged.


Yesterday the Russian Foreign Office issued an utterly harsh statement regarding the recent exacerbation of the situation in the Georgian-Abkhaz and Georgian-Ossetian zones of conflict. Moscow openly accused Tbilisi of fueling tensions. The recent massive mortar attack against Tskhinvali, violations of the conflict zone’s airspace by fighter jets and unmanned aerial vehicles of the Georgian air forces, setting up a post on a strategic height near the village of Sarabuki, as well deployment of extra Georgian military equipment in the conflict zone are rendered “an open, preplanned act of aggression committed against South Ossetia” in the press-release.


Moscow is even more critical of Tbilisi’s policy towards Abkhazia, virtually accusing the Georgian government of terrorism. Reminding of a series of explosions that occurred in several Abkhaz towns and of the fact that the “Abkhaz authorities designate these blasts as terrorist acts,” the Russian MFA bluntly states, “The Georgian side, according to available evidence, may have had a hand in organizing some of them.”


The statement of the Russian Foreign Office followed Russia’s introducing in the UNSC a draft of a resolution calling for an immediate signing documents providing for ceasefire in the zones of the Georgia-Abkhazia and Georgia-South Ossetia conflicts. It need be said that the Russian initiative turned out surprising to the majority of the delegations, since the Georgia-South Ossetia conflict, unlike the Georgia-Abkhazia one, is not subject of the UNSC’s consideration. The Russian party explained the introducing of this matter in the UNSC by the fact that the bombing of Tskhinvali “has escalated the situation in the Caucasus region as a whole and in Abkhazia in particular.”


However, there is one more factor that can prevent the Russian resolution from being adopted. Unlike the majority of the previous resolutions about the situation in the region, this one contains concrete claims to Tbilisi. Apart from the agreement on cease-fire, the claims include a compete withdrawal of Georgia’s troops from the Kodor Gorge. For all that, yesterday the members of the Security Council started consultations regarding the issue.


According to the information of Kommersant it got from western diplomatic sources, the USA’s willingness to pass a resolution imposing sanctions on the regime of Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe boosts the chances that the Russian resolution will be adopted as well. The USA has already introduced a draft of the document, though 6 countries out of the 15 members of the Security Council do not support it. Russia, China, the Republic of South Africa, Vietnam, Indonesia and Libya are among those opposing the draft. In this case, from the viewpoint of the officials, the American diplomats won’t dare urge that all countries support the resolution on Zimbabwe simultaneously putting its veto on the Russian project concerning Georgia.


When answering a question about diplomatic horse-trading “Zimbabwe for Georgia,” Permanent Ambassador of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Vitaly Churkin appeared to have denied such a possibility, stating, “There is no connection here.” Nonetheless, you could notice some hints in his words implying that there is connection between Zimbabwe and Georgia. As he was asked whether Russia will use its veto when voting on the Zimbabwe project, Mr Churkin said that he suggested that his American opposite number Zalmay Khalilzad shouldn’t rush to put the Zimbabwe resolution to the vote. “Veto is a strong word, I try to avoid using it until I get the instructions,” the Ambassador replied evasively.


The key target of the Russian diplomatic advance in the Georgian direction might be an attempt to counter Tbilisi’s plans to change the format of the peace-keeping mission in the region. The Russian Foreign Ministry has actually acknowledged it. “The aim of fanning tensions in relations with Abkhazia and South Ossetia is to destroy the peacekeeping architecture that has been in place in the region for decade and a half so as to replace it with new, suiting the Georgian side, mechanisms of settlement,” yesterday’s press-release reads. Besides, Russia’s Foreign Office censures the U.S. Department of State because of its idea to deploy international police forces in the zone of the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict (Sean McCormack has recently made this the point).


It’s true that Georgia’s pressing for changing the format of the peace-keeping mission is based on the support it has gotten from the USA. According to the information of Kommersant, this matter was the key issue discussed yesterday during Condoleezza Rice’s visit to Georgia. A source in the Georgian Foreign Ministry confirmed it to Kommersant, “In the course of the visit the question of deploying international forces was thrashed out. We do not mind Russia’s peace-keepers staying there, only the format must be changed.”


Tbilisi appears rather resolute, and it intends to change the format whatever the cost. “Unless the format is changed, Georgia will have to take unilateral steps regarding the peacekeepers,” David Bakradze, Speaker of the Georgian Parliament, stated yesterday after his meeting with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Bertrand Ramcharan, who is in charge of settling the dispute between Georgia and Abkhazia. An open threat voiced by one of Georgia’s top politicians can only mean that the situation in Georgia will get even more heated.


Gennady Sysoev; Dmitry Gornostaev, RIAN correspondent in New York, specially for Kommersant.


07.10.2008  Kommersant


 UN, Russian peacekeepers to investigate Kodor Gorge incident


Sukhum/Tbilisi, A joint group of UN observers and Russian peacekeepers will investigate an incident in the Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone, which left two Abkhaz servicemen wounded, an Abkhaz military source said on Wednesday.


The investigation into the incident, which is due to start on Thursday, has been launched at the request of Abkhaz authorities.


Abkhazia said that a group of approximately 10 assailants fired a grenade launcher before opening fire with assault rifles at an Abkhaz border post in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone, located on the Achamkhara Mountain in the Kodor Gorge.


The attackers fled after an exchange of gunfire, local police reported.


Meanwhile, Georgia claimed that a group of Georgian policemen came under attack in the same area on Wednesday. Four assailants were killed and several wounded, while three Georgian police officers were wounded, the Georgian Interior Ministry said.


Tbilisi is also demanding that the UN mission in Georgia open an investigation into the incident.


07.09.2008  RIA Novosti


 Georgian policy on Abkhazia, S. Ossetia threatens region - Russia


Moscow, Georgia's actions with regard to Abkhazia and South Ossetia pose a real threat to peace and stability in the South Caucasus, Russia's Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.


Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which witnessed armed conflicts in the 1990s, have seen a rise in tensions with Tbilisi this year, ranging from air space violations by Georgian aircraft and drones to recent explosions in Abkhazia, to shootouts and the brief arrest of Georgian officers in South Ossetia.


Abkhazia and South Ossetia have accused Tbilisi, which is seeking to regain control over the regions, of being behind the attacks.


"There is increasingly more evidence that Georgia's leadership has embarked upon a path of deliberately exacerbating tensions with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and is aiming to disrupt peacekeeping structures which have been effective for one and a half decades in the region," the Russian Foreign Ministry statement said.


"Tbilisi's actions are a real threat to peace and stability in the South Caucasus, and could push the region to the verge of a new armed conflict that would have unpredictable consequences," the ministry's statement continued.


The statement also said that Georgia wanted to replace the Russian peacekeeping contingent, stationed in the conflict zones as the majority part of collective peacekeeping forces, with a force that would be more acceptable to pro-NATO Tbilisi.


The Foreign Ministry also criticized recent statements by U.S. Department of State officials, saying that, "Those who are trying hard, despite the facts, to ignore the danger and feel free to shield the provocateurs and shift the blame to Moscow, are doing the Georgian side a very bad service by enhancing its conviction that it has a free hand."


Washington has criticized Russia's actions in the region and has proposed deploying an international police force to replace Russian peacekeepers in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone.


Russia submitted a draft resolution to the UN Security Council on Tuesday on the situation in Georgia, voicing its concerns over Tbilisi's growing military presence near the conflict zones, seen by South Ossetia as evidence of plans for an all-out invasion.


07.09.2008  RIA Novosti


 Georgia says Rice's visit shows U.S. support


Tbilisi, Georgia's foreign minister said Wednesday that the current visit of U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice shows Washington's support for Georgia as a democratic state.


Rice arrived in Tbilisi earlier in the day, and will meet with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili on Thursday for closed-door talks.


"The visit of the U.S. Secretary of State undoubtedly demonstrates the U.S. support of Georgia as a democratic state and the support of Georgia's peaceful intentions, which may bring positive results," Yekaterina Tkeshelashvili told reporters in Tbilisi.


Rice's visit to Georgia will take place amid rising tensions between the post Soviet Caucasus country, which seeks NATO membership, and, Abkhazia and South Ossetia, which have recently seen several bombings and disputes over peacekeepers.


Russia has provided aid to Abkhazia and recently sent additional peacekeepers into the area, saying they are needed to deter new bloodshed, and accusing Tbilisi of escalating the conflict. Georgia has charged Moscow with trying to annex Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


"With this visit the American side clearly shows its support of Georgia's peaceful plans to resolve the conflicts with both [breakaway] regions," Tkeshelashvili said.


07.09.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia rules out withdrawal of Russian peacekeepers


Moscow, Abkhazia will never agree to a U.S. proposal to replace Russian peacekeepers currently serving in the region with an international police force, the Abkhaz foreign minister said on Tuesday.


On Monday, the U.S. Department of State urged the prevention of a further escalation of tensions in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone. The statement came after a series of bombings in Abkhazia and noted "the urgent need for an international police presence in the areas where these bombings have occurred."


"We completely disagree with this and will never allow the Russian peacekeepers to be replaced by some kind of incomprehensible police force, which in the future would support only Georgia," Sergei Shamba said.


"We have repeatedly pointed out, and this was proved yesterday, that the recent blasts in Abkhazia are connected with Georgian plans, as well as the plans of certain other countries, to replace the Russian peacekeepers with an international police force," he also said.


Abkhazia claims that Georgia is responsible for a series of explosions that have rocked the de-facto independent republic since June 30. The most recent blast hit a cafe on Sunday in the town of Gal, on the Georgian-Abkhaz border, killing four and injuring six.


Russia provides aid to Abkhazia and recently sent additional troops into the area, saying they were needed to deter new bloodshed. The pro-Western Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili has accused Russia of trying to Abkhazia, along with the republic of South Ossetia.


The U.S. Department of State also reiterated its support for Georgia's territorial integrity, and called on Russia to refrain from any "provocative" steps in the region.


"The United States reiterates its strong support for Georgia's territorial integrity... We call on Russia to reverse its recent provocative steps in Abkhazia and consult Tbilisi on any future steps in both Abkhazia and South Ossetia," the statement said.


07.08.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia urges intl. groups to prevent terrorism


Sukhum, The foreign ministry of Abkhazia urged the international community to help in the fight against terrorism in the region on Monday following the death of four people in a blast.


Abkhazia is claiming that Georgia is responsible for a series of explosions that have rocked the republic June 30. The most recent blast hit a cafe Sunday in the town of Gal, on the Georgian-Abkhaz border killing four and injuring six.


Abkhazia's foreign ministry said in a statement, to the UN, G8 and OSCE, "Ignoring such serious provocations could lead to an irreversible escalation in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict."


Abkhazia's ministry said that the international community's silence is an indication of their indirect support for terrorism and puts into question the objectivity of international mediators in finding a political settlement to the conflict in the region.


The foreign ministry statement said that "the leadership of Georgia has been openly supporting terrorism" for 15 years, stating that Levan Mamasakhlisi, considered a terrorist by Abkhazia, had received awards from Georgia's President Mikheil Saakashvili.


The ministry said that the international community was turning a blind eye to the evident human rights violations and "the policy of terror" against Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


The latest blast follows two sets of explosions in Abkhazia on June 30 and July 1, when six people were injured in the capital, Sukhum, and the Black Sea resort of Gagra. Abkhaz authorities blamed both incidents on Georgian security forces and closed the de facto border with Georgia. Tbilisi dismissed the accusations as "absurd."


07.07.2008  RIA Novosti


 The Minister for Foreign Affairs will visit Georgia, including Abkhazia, during 7 – 9 July 2008


In Tbilisi, the Minister for Foreign Affairs will meet Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili, Prime Minister Vladimir Gurgenidze, Minister for Foreign Affairs Eka Tkeshelashvili and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze. The Danish Minister for Foreign Affairs will also meet the head of UNOMIG, SRSG Jean Arnault and during a visit to Abkhazia Per Stig Møller will meet de facto President Sergei Bagapsh.


The visit takes places at a time when there is a clear necessity to ease the tension in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict. The visit by HR Javier Solana to Georgia on 5 - 6 June 2008 opened the door to further EU engagement, including related to confidence-building measures. The main focus during the talks will therefore be how the EU and Denmark can contribute to an improvement of the dialogue between Abkhazia and Georgia and how a further increase in tension can be avoided to reduce the risk of military clashes. Apart from Abkhazia, Georgia’s relations with the EU and NATO will be on the agenda, as well as bilateral relations.


During the visit, Minister Per Stig Møller will launch a project financed by Denmark: Enhancing Good Governance, Human Rights and the Rule of Law in Georgia. The project is financed under the Neighbourhood Programme of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


07.07.2008  Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark


 Statement of the Abkhaz Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Statement of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs


Against the backdrop of heightened preparation by Georgia for a military aggression against Abkhazia, a series of terrorist acts in the cities of Abkhazia were directed against peaceful population and caused injuries of innocent people. Recent blasts in Gal town on the  6th of July 2008 killed four people and seriously injured many others.


For the past 15 post-conflict years, Georgian leadership has been suspected of supporting terrorism. The UN Joint Fact Finding Mission asserted in its report of 20 - 24 November, 2000, that: ". armed groups, consisting of Georgians were carrying out aimed attacks in Gal district. Their immediate task was to create an atmosphere of fear and instability among returnees to Gal district in order to show that it is impossible to stay in the territory controlled by the Abkhaz side. They used ambushes, kidnappings and aimed mining ". The destiny of those kidnapped by the Georgian secret services - Chairman of the Election Committee of the Gal district Mr. David Sigua - is still unclear.


Similarly, the international community, has also been accused of failing to give objective assessment of Georgian authorities, and condemning violations of human rights in Georgian policy in Abkhazia and South Ossetia.


Considering the above, Abkhazia appeals to the G8 countries, the UN Security Council, the OSCE and the Group of Friends of the UN Secretary General to take adequate measures to suppress the threat of terrorism arising from Georgia, as neglecting such provocations will lead to irreversible escalation of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.


Sukhum 07.07.2008


 Explosions rock Abkhazia border


At least four explosions have been reported along the de facto border between Georgia and Abkhazia, according to officials.

One person was reportedly slightly injured in the blasts, the latest in a series of incidents in the tense region which effectively split from Tbilisi's control in the 1990s.


"Four mines exploded today in the morning nearby to a village called Rukhi, in Georgia's Zubdidi region," Shota Utiashvili, Georgia's interior minister, said.


The fourth explosion went off under a police car as officers investigated the site after the initial blasts, slightly wounding the local deputy police chief, Utiashvili told the Reuters news agency.


Georgian television showed a bomb-damaged car and police officers standing nearby.


Alexander Diordiev, assistant commander of the Russian peacekeeping force in Abkhazia, was quoted as saying by Interfax news agency that the four blasts happened "almost simultaneously".


Georgians blamed


Lieutenant-Colonel Alexander Novitsky, a spokesman for the peacekeepers, was quoted by Russian news agencies as blaming the blast on Georgian agents.


The RIA news agency reported Novitsky as saying a Georgian special forces uniform had been found wrapped around the shell that caused one of the blasts.


"In the place of the explosion, there remained the uniform," he was quoted as saying.


Utiashvili denied the allegations and said that separatist forces had shelled Georgian villages in the border area.


Meanwhile, a town in nearby South Ossetia also reportedly came under fire from the Georgian side of the border on Saturday, according to Russia's Vesti-24 news channel.


A spokesman for the South Ossetian side in the joint commission on the crisis resolution said that a police post came under fire from guns and grenade launchers but there were no reports of injuries.


Tensions high


Tensions in the both republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have risen since Russia earlier this year moved to bolster ties with them.


Abkhazia and South Ossetia have strong diplomatic and economic support from Russia, while Tbilisi has accused Moscow of attempting to annex the provinces.


Abkhazia's government and Russian peacekeepers have both accused Tbilisi of planning military operations to retake the region which gained de facto independence after a conflict in the mid-1990s.


On Saturday, Dmitry Medvedev, Russia's president, urged his Georgian counterpart Mikheil Saakashvili to refrain from "stoking tensions" in the two regions.


Georgia has accused the Russian peacekeeping forces of supporting the Abkhazian and South Ossetian governments and secretly bringing artillery and other heavy weapons into the both republics.


07.06.2008  Al Jazeera


 Abkhaz leader says Georgia planned to invade Abkhazia in spring


Sukhum, Sergei Bagapsh, the president of Abkhazia said on Saturday that Georgia had plans to attack and invade the region in April-May this year.


"The plan [developed by Georgia's Defense Ministry] has been obtained by the Abkhaz military intelligence services and clearly demonstrates that Georgia intended to occupy...the entire territory of Abkhazia," Bagapsh told a news conference in Sukhum.


According to the Abkhaz leader, Georgia planned to blockade the outposts of Russian peacekeepers, to launch two simultaneous land offensives on Abkhazia from the Kodor Gorge and the Zugdidi district, and to conduct a seaborne assault on Ochamchira, Sukhum, and Gagra.


Bagapsh said Georgia has amassed 2,000 troops in the Kodor Gorge alone and increased its contingent on the border with Abkhazia to 12,000 troops since mid-April.


He accused the Georgian leadership of numerous military provocations against Abkhazia and Russian peacekeepers in the region.


"These actions are aimed to destabilize the situation in the zone of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict and to prepare the international community for the possible aggression against Abkhazia," he said.


Bagapsh also said numerous violations of the Abkhazian airspace by Georgian spy drones were part of the invasion plans.


Russian peacekeepers in the conflict zone confirmed on Saturday that Georgian unmanned reconnaissance aircraft continued regular flights over the Georgian-Ablhazian border and violated the region's airspace at least eight times in the past 48 hours.


Georgia has not yet commented on the accusations put forward by the Abkhaz leader.


Abkhazia closed its border with the rest of Georgia on July 1. The move followed two explosions in Abkhazia that the local authorities blamed on Georgian special forces.


The pro-Western Georgian government of Mikheil Saakashvili has said it is determined to bring Abkhazia back under its control, while accusing Russia of trying to annex the republic, along with another rebel province, South Ossetia.


07.05.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russia urges Georgia to sign ceasefire deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia


Moscow, Russia is concerned over the escalation of violence in South Ossetia and is urging the international community to press Georgia to sign a ceasefire deal with Abkhazia and South Ossetia, Russia's foreign minister said on Friday.


According to confirmed reports, an alleged Georgian attack on South Ossetia's capital of Tskhinvali left one dead and three injured late last night, Igor Alborov, a deputy defense and emergencies minister of South Ossetia.


"We...want the international community to take urgent steps in both conflicts with South-Ossetia and Abkhazia to persuade Tbilisi to sign a ceasefire agreement," Sergei Lavrov told the press.


Reports early on Friday said three people had died and another 11 were injured in an attack on Tskhinvali, South Ossetia's capital, and the villages of Ubiat and Dmenis on Thursday night.


"According to confirmed reports, a South Ossetian was killed in a mortar attack on the village of Ubiat," Alborov said adding that a security officer and two civilians were injured.


Vladimir Ivanov, an aide to the commander of the Joint Peacekeeping Forces in the conflict zone, said seven unidentified planes were observed above Tskhinvali during the attack.


South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoity, who threatened earlier in the day to use military hardware if the incident repeats, also urged Georgia and its president Mikheil Saakashvili to prevent a new conflict in the area.


"We are doing everything to maintain stability in the region, not to take it to a tragic point, when it will be hard to change anything... We do not want this war, and we are repeatedly requesting that Georgia withdraw all these units deployed illegally in the republic of South Ossetia," Kokoity told the Vesti-24 television channel.


He described Saakashvili's policy as "short-sighted" and warned that the consequences of a potential war would be appalling mostly for Georgia itself.


The Russian foreign minister also expressed bewilderment that "reconciliatory, constructive signals" from Abkhazia were accompanied by an escalation of tension in South Ossetia.


07.04.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia Closes Border with Georgia


The government of Abkhazia has moved to close its border with Georgia after a series of explosions, the latest example of mounting tensions in the area since Russia moved   toward closer relations with the province this spring. Abkhazia blames Tbilisi for the blasts, which caused several injuries but no deaths. But Georgia says the explosions were caused by criminal elements within Abkhazia.


The unrest continued as a bomb went off Wednesday on the border between Georgia and Abkhazia, two days after the border was closed. No one was harmed in the blast.


Abkhazia's president Sergei Bagapsh announced Monday that starting July 1 the borders with Georgia would be closed. Earlier in the day two bombs went off near a market in the resort town of Sukhum, injuring eight people, including a Russian.


"This is being done in order to show that Abkhazian authorities are incapable of controlling the situation, to be used as a pretext for installing their own administration," Abkhazia Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba told The Moscow News, blaming the blasts on what he said was Georgian "state-sponsored terrorism" that has been going on for several years. "These acts are clearly being carried out in order to cancel the vacation season and undermine the economy."


Abkhazia is a popular resort destination with Russians and gets a large share of its income from tourism and trade with its northern neighbor. On Tuesday the Russian Tourist Industry Union told news agencies that some people started cancelling their vacations to popular resorts like Gagra and Pitsunda, and predicted that vacations to the area might decrease by as much as 20 percent this year.


Georgia's response echoed Shamba's explanation by indeed blaming the explosions on an inability to reign in what it said were criminal elements in the region. Officials in Tbilisi, which has been accused by Abkhazia of similar "provocations" on its soil, denied it had anything to do with the explosions. "Abkhazia has been an uncontrolled territory for a long time, and this is exactly what we have been saying," Georgia's Defense Minister David Kezerashvili was quoted by Russian news agencies as saying. "There are very many armed criminal gangs on its territory. And, as we can see, the latest explosions in Abkhazia are connected to criminal clashes."


Shamba insists, meanwhile, that such "provocations" form a pattern. "Threats from Georgia have been confirmed many times before," he told The Moscow News in a telephone interview. "For instance a young man was detained several years ago after bringing explosives on a pretext of visiting relatives. He was proven guilty and was handed over to the European Council human rights commissioner. There was a case when an 80-year-old man was used to send in explosives. Monitoring by UN and OSCE forces has confirmed that the Georgian side sends armed people to [commit these acts]."


Following the recognition of Kosovo's independence in February, Russia stepped up its relations with Abkhazia, arguing that Kosovo had set a precedent for other unrecognized republics. Over the weekend President Bagapsh flew to Moscow to meet with President Dmitri Medvedev. Shamba says the latest explosions are a direct attempt to push out Russia's influence in the region.


Georgia's President Mikhail Saakashvili traveled to Berlin this week where he held talks with U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and German Chancellor Angela Merkel about the situation. He was supposed to meet with President Dmitri Medvedev for talks, but there were no reports that the meeting took place. In a later interview, Saakashvili warned against Russia's intervention in the region.


07.03.2008  Moscow News


 Bomb blast in Georgia-Abkhazia conflict zone; nobody hurt


Tbilisi, An explosive device went off in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone in Rukhi settlement in the Zugdidi district on Wednesday morning. The blast occurred at some 100 metres from the central motor-road bridge across the Ingur River. Nobody has been hurt.


The explosion occurred near a post of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces manned by Russian units and close to the post of local Georgian police. Representatives of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces serving at the post, in an interview with journalists of Georgian TV companies, confirmed that there was an explosion but declined further comment.


There is no comment from representatives of the Georgian law enforcers either. According to preliminary information, a home-made time bomb went off. Georgian field engineers arrived on the scene.


07.02.2008  Itar-Tass


 Russian peacekeepers blame new Abkhazia blast on Georgia


Moscow, A commander of the Russian-led peacekeeping contingent deployed in the conflict zone between Georgia and Abkhazia accused Georgian security forces of setting off a new explosion in the region on Wednesday morning.


The blast went off near a Russian peacekeeping checkpoint on the border between Georgia and Abkhazia. Georgian television said no casualties have been reported.


"A car with unidentified people inside passed through the checkpoint in Georgia," Alexander Diordiyev said. "Georgian troops did not even try to stop the car."


"At about 300 meters (330 yards) from the [Russian] checkpoint, the car made a turn, something was thrown out of it, and an explosion went off," Diordiyev said, confirming that no one was killed or injured.


The incident follows two sets of explosions in Abkhazia on Sunday and Monday, when six people were injured. Abkhaz authorities blamed both incidents on Georgian security forces. Tbilisi dismissed the accusations as absurd.


Diordiyev said Georgian security services' acts were aimed at provoking peacekeepers and destabilizing the situation in the area.


He said the peacekeeping command had informed the United Nations mission of the incident and launched investigation.


Abkhazia closed its de-facto border with Georgia on Tuesday following the explosions in its capital, Sukhum, and Black Sea resort of Gagra. Tbilisi claims that the region is now under Russia's control.


Abkhazia has been the focus of ongoing tensions between Russia and Georgia, which seeks to regain the province. Russia provides financial aid to the self-proclaimed republic and runs peacekeepers in a bid it says to prevent fresh bloodshed.


Ex-Soviet Georgia, which wants to join NATO, has accused Russia of attempting to annex Abkhazia.


07.02.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russia's Sochi resumes ferry service to Abkhaz resort


Sochi, The sea link between Gagra in Abkhazia and Russia's Black Sea resort of Sochi has been restored after more than 15 years, a spokesman for the ferry company said Tuesday.


Ferries between the two cities were stopped in 1992 during the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict.


In the late 1990s, Russia restarted passenger services to Abkhazia's capital, Sukhum.


"We have a great hope that the sea link popular in the Soviet times will be profitable now," the spokesman said of the Sochi-Gagra route.


The high-speed ferries take 45 minutes for the trip between Sochi and Gagra and can carry up to 189 passengers.


Georgia warned last week that setting up regular sea links with Abkhazia was internationally prohibited. Tbilisi officially closed all ports in Abkhazia after the republic broke away from Georgia in the early 1990s.


The resumption of the Sochi-Gagra ferries came shortly after the Black Sea resort was rocked by two explosions injuring six people on Sunday. Coupled with two more bombings in Sukhum on Monday, that prompted the Abkhaz authorities to partially close its administrative border with Georgia on Tuesday.


Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh blamed Georgia for the bombings. Tbilisi called the accusations "absurd."


Relations between Russia and Georgia have been strained since Russia stepped up support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. The pro-Western government of Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili has said it is determined to bring Abkhazia and South Ossetia back under its control, while Moscow says Tbilisi's policies could lead to new bloodshed.


07.01.2008  RIA Novosti