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

 Authorities Of Abkhazia Plans To Put Sukhum Airport Into Operation In Any Case


The Government of Abkhazia is sure that the Sukhum Airport will be put into operation in any case, reported PNA.


Kristian Bzhania, spokesman of the government of Abkhazia, the head of the department of news and mass media, stated about that while commenting on statement of the head of International Civil Aviation Organization.


According to Bzhania, the ICAO is not a political organization and it has not got right to make political statements, because he is only competent for technical issues.


The Head of the ICAO stated that the organization would impose sanction against any air company which will launch flights in Abkhazia.


06.13.2008  Trend News


 Russian, NATO defense chiefs to discuss missile shield, Abkhazia


Moscow, Russia's defense minister will meet with his NATO counterparts in Brussels on Friday for talks expected to focus on Russia's role in Abkhazia and U.S. missile shield plans.


The Russia-NATO Council session, taking place during two days of NATO meetings, will also address Russia's participation in Operation Active Endeavour, an ongoing security and counter-terrorist naval operation in the Mediterranean Sea.


Col. Alexei Kuznetsov, a spokesman for Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov, said Russia's opposition to U.S. plans to place 10 interceptor missiles in Poland and a radar station in the neighboring Czech Republic would be high on the agenda.


"A strong focus will be put on unresolved issues, in particular the placement of strategic U.S. missile defense elements on the European continent, arms control in Europe, and the expansion of NATO," he said.


NATO members' reluctance to approve an amended Cold War-era Conventional Forces in Europe (CFE) treaty was discussed last week during President Dmitry Medvedev's meeting in Berlin with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. Russia imposed a moratorium on the treaty late last year.


During the Russia-NATO meeting, Western defense chiefs will urge Russia to take measures to calm tensions in Abkhazia.


Georgia has accused Russia of trying to annex the region, and has condemned Russia's recent move to deploy additional peacekeepers there, as well as the arrival of around 300 railroad troops late last month.


Relations between Russia and Georgia have deteriorated in recent years over Moscow's support for Abkhazia and South Ossetia and Tbilisi's drive for NATO membership.


The defense minister's spokesman said that during his Brussels visit, Serdyukov will hold a one-on-one meeting with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.


06.09.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia waits for new war with Georgia: "If the Russians leave, tomorrow NATO will be just outside Sochi."


KP special correspondent Darya Aslamova is sure only force can tear the small proud Abkhazia Republic from Russia


В Абхазии снова ждут войны с Грузией: «Если русские нас кинут, НАТО завтра будет под Сочи»


It was Aug. 14, 1992. I woke up at 06:00 in the morning at Stalin's old dacha. The Georgian Army was everywhere. Soldiers were sleeping side-by-side. Tropical birds sang in the nearby garden. I had just sat down on the windowsill under the sun to do my eyebrows when I saw Georgian Defense Minister Kitovani waddling to the sea in a wet towel.


"War in a resort town?" I thought. "What nonsense!"


"How many hours until the war?" I shouted to him. "Will I have time to get to Sukhum?"


"You've got two hours," he answered.


I remember walking with my friend to Sukhum. We bought the only remaining cucumber at an empty city market and a bottle of Soviet champagne. I remember the pained face of Sergey Bagapsh, who is today's Abkhazian president. He must have sat alone in the huge empty building housing the Cabinet of Ministers waiting for the world to end.


I remember how the first bursts of machine gun fire forced us into the home of a stranger — a woman named Emma who was shaken with fear. We sat on the floor drinking champagne and eating the cucumber as all hell broke loose around us.


I remember how the Georgian Army raked the sweet resort town with fire.


Drunk soldiers smashed storefront windows and robbed the goods. One soldier even handed me a bottle of fake French perfume.


"Here!" he said. "Take this. I won't worry over it!"


On that violent August day, all seemed lost for Abkhazia.


"The Abkhazia campaign is over," Kitovani said victoriously before his flight to Tbilisi.


But the war had only just begun.


I remember carpets of bright mandarins spread over the snow in Abkhazia's bullet ridden gardens in March 1993. No one would harvest them. Picking a mandarin might mean catching a stray bullet in the head.


If as a foreigner I remember the war just just like yesterday, how vividly do the Abkhazians recall those heavy days? I laughed with them at the irony when Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvilli made his fiery appeal to the Abkhazian people: "Brothers and sisters...!"


Georgia once again hurled the whip down upon Abkhazia this resort season, testing the Abkhazians with sabre -rattling in the Kodor Gorge, secret attempts at negotiations, spy planes flying overhead, proposals for a broader autonomy, provocations on election day on the Abkhazian-Georgian border and U.S. mediators visiting Sukhum. But all this ballyhoo just worsens the cold war between Georgia and Abkhazia.


As we drove into Sukhum, we were greeted by a poster reading: "Glory to a victorious nation! 1992-1998."


Is the young unrecognized nation preparing for another war?


Everyone is armed


I voted by the highway near Gagra and quickly became irritated. I stood beneath the sweltering sun for 40 minutes waiting for a car to pull over and give me a ride. "I guess no one wants to earn anything?" I thought perturbed. Finally, a young man stopped in an old foreign car.


"Where are you going?" he asked.


"To Sukhum," I said.


"Get in," he said.


"How much for the ride?" I asked.


"That's a bit unnecessary," he said. "Do I look like a cabbie or something? We give good people free rides here. This isn't Moscow."


My benefactor's name was Timur. He was a usual member of Abkhazia's post-war generation. His basement at home stored a Kalashnikov, two pistols, "Mukha" grenade launchers and a bulletproof vest.


"It's like Israel here," he said. "We're all in the 'Reserve.' If the homeland calls, I'll fall into line and obey my commandeer. It's easiest this way. There's no need to feed a professional army. The army feeds itself. By the way, our guys serve two years not like in Russia."


"We have a law on circulating arms, but it doesn't work," said Ruslan Kishmariya, presidential representative in the Gal region. "And thank God. The people are too afraid to register their weapons. What if they suddenly came and took them away? We'd have to face the Georgians without any weapons like during the last war."


"You want to know how prepared Abkhazia is for war?" asked Deputy Defense Minister Gary Kupalba. "We have tanks and artillery. They're all Soviet trophy arms. Before the war, when the Soviet Union was divided up, Georgia received a whole slew of arms from the South Caucasus Military District. We ended up with a large portion of them. When the Georgians exited Abkhazia, they left everything here without even exploding it. There were over 200 tanks from Ochamchira to the border. We took everything. It was much cheaper than buying the equipment new."


"During the military operation, I was first deputy defense minister," said Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba. "When the UN troops came to Abkhazia, I rode around with them so they could see the arms the Georgians had abandoned. They spoke to each other in English thinking I didn't understand: 'How could the war have been lost with such artillery? Hundreds of guns and tanks.' Well we took everything."


"Is your home also stocked with weapons?" I asked.


"My home," he said. "No, that's nonsense. I have a machine gun and pistols. But my grandchildren are growing up and I'm thinking about how to get rid of the weapons. My son who went to the front at age 16 is far better prepared. I remember going to see Dudaev in Chechnya during the war to beg him for planes. He had two aerodromes fully loaded. He had anything you could ever want — everything that had been stored in the North Caucasus Military District. They took 47,000 machine guns and we were left with the shells. But Dudaev didn't give us any planes. He said: 'You kiss Russia's ass and you're still asking us to give you planes?!' Our relationship ended there. But today Abkhazia is poles apart. This isn't 1992 when we didn't have an army or weapons. We've tasted victory. We have a budget and arms expenditures. Russia's support is also increasing. We're going to talk with Georgia differently now."


"After the collapse of the Soviet Union, you could buy anything and everything from countries party to the Warsaw Pact," Kupalba said. "They were selling weapons for the price of metal. A tank went for $1,000 per ton. So for $10,000 you could buy a tank. Today a Lada sells for $12,000. If we didn't buy the arms back then, we'd have nothing now. Today we have our own aviation — Czech training planes analogous to the Su-25. It's easy to mount ammunition on them. We also have MiG-24 military helicopters. How many? Well we shouldn't talk in numbers. But the Georgians don't have it as easy as you think. The U.S. didn't give them anything free besides 'Iroquois' helicopters that were used in Vietnam. Ukraine sold 40 T-62 tanks to Georgia, but gave them old broken equipment on the sly. There's a lot of corruption in Georgia's higher echelons which is why contracts are signed for purchasing old weapons. So we're no less armed than the Georgians."


"And how many people are you prepared to call to arms?" I asked.


"Within 24 hours 25,000 men. And up to 60,000 in a week. The Kuban Cossacks have promised an additional 5,000 men. Entire battalions fought with us. Three hundred Cossacks were killed in the war and 7-8,000 men from all over the former Soviet Union volunteered to fight. If Georgia attacks, our diaspora will also be activated (4 million Abkhazians live in 50 countries worldwide)."


Storm clouds along the border


The road to the Georgian border is covered in potholes. Our car bounces so much I start to hiccup.


"You don't mind we're driving in the opposite lane?" I asked Kishmariya.


"How else can we pass?" he said surprised.


Several UN jeeps drove passed us loudly.


"Ahа, there goes the 'tourists,'" Kishmariya said, laughing angrily. "They drive back and forth all day long, spying and not doing a single thing. And fairytale wages! Six years ago, the Georgian 'Zviadists' took a Slovak peacekeeper hostage. He sat in the mountains, drank Cha-Cha, ate well and played cards the whole time. His wife later came to see him. She begged the Zviadists to keep him captive longer. The UN was paying the hostage $15,000 per day! Of course, they let the Slovak go and the Zviadists released a tape of the negotiations with his wife. I can't stand these guys. They come from Sri Lanka or Pakistan to teach me how to live in my land?! Go take care of your own country first! Recently a delegation from the EU parliament came to see me at my office. They said: 'We thank your separatist state for allocating two hours for negotiations.' 'What kind of state?' I asked. 'Separatist,' they said. 'Aha, so it's like that!' I said. And within 8 minutes they were gone."


The Gal region is a territory housing a large population of Megrelians. After the war, nearly 50,000 Georgian refugees returned to Gal.


"The Georgians were shouting to the international community: 'What a disgrace! 200,000 refugees!'" Kishmariya said. "But the Georgians aren't saying a word about the fact that they're starting to go home."


The Megrelians are a distinct people with their own language and traditions. But the Georgians don't consider them to be an independent nation.


"They're only Megrelians until the age of 16," he said. "But as soon as they get their passport they're Georgians."


The closer to the border, the more women in black. The Megrelians have a genuine cult venerating the dead. Mourning over a great uncle lasts decades. And one mourning merges with the next and eventually there is no reason to take off the black clothing.


Nabakevi village. The Russian peacekeeping station sits proudly below the banner, "Russia." It was here that strange, scandalous events occurred on the day of the Georgian elections. Georgia accused Abkhazians of committing an act of terror — blowing up a bus to scare the Georgian population in Abkhazia and prevent them from voting.


Abkhazian Major Bubnov examined me suspiciously."Do you have permission for an interview?" he asked.


"Where from!" I said with a smile. "At least just tell me what happened. Where were the shootings?"


"On that day we heard sounds of fighting close by," Bubnov said. "There were shots. And then a shell flew toward us. Luckily no one was injured."


"I know. I was there!" said a Megrelian farmer riding by on his wagon. "I went to Georgia for the elections. I had already voted and as I headed back they started shooting. Bullets were flying all over. It's not clear who took the shots. I jumped in a ditch and laid there. Then I walked home crossing the border by foot."


"We're tired of these provacations," Abkhazian President Sergey Bagapsh told KP. "The situation on election day was a genuine spectacle. Shots were fired into an empty bus. The bus caught fire. And cameras and fire engines appeared."


"Any act of terror without victims is suspicious," Kishmariya said. "In whose interest would this be? Only Georgia's. And Georgia once again is accusing Abkhazia of terrorism. Why would the Abkhazians shoot an empty bus?"


"Well who shot down the Georgian drones?" I changed the topic.


A sly look came over Kishmariya's face. "The Abkhazian forces. Do you have reason to doubt that?" he said. (And I remembered how I had asked a Russian military expert: "Maybe we shot down the drones?" "Of course we did!" he said surprised. "Who else?"


"A Georgian journalist called me that day and asked: 'Mr. Kishmariya! How did the Abkhazians shoot down the Georgian drone? With what'" he said. "'With special equipment called a 'Boomerang,' I answered. 'What's that?' she asked. 'A unique nonexpendable weapon,' I said. 'You throw it and it comes back.' You won't believe me, but the Georgians published that!"


Dead fighting a war of the living


All Abkhazia is wandering from funerals to weddings. Or as they say in Abkhazia, "weddings-shmeddings" and "funerals-shmunerals." Good and bad celebratory tables. Life is always either one of the two.


"The Abkhazian people have a special idea of death," my friend Nadir said. "In Abkhazian, the word 'died' translates literally as 'changed worlds.' We are all riding one train. Only the dead have reached their final destination and we are still on route. The deceased are waiting for us and plead us. If we want their support THERE, then we must justify their expectations here."


Abkhazians prepare for death in a humdrum, theatrical manner.


"What do you think, when will Aunt Anelya die? Tuesday or Wednesday?" one Abkhazian said to another as we sat there drinking  coffee.


"Wednesday. You'll see. But no earlier than Uncle Anzor," the other said.


My cup was shaking in my hands.


"How can you talk about death like that?" I asked.


"Death is a part of life. What are you afraid of? People attend funerals with no less pleasure than weddings!" I heard in answer.


Man is flesh and God is flesh. All these Othellos, Desdemonas, Hamlets (even Hitlers, Studebakers... Abkhazians love exuberant unusual names.) want the dead to appear to be living.


"So I arrive at D.'s funeral and he's laying there before the crowd. In one hand he has a lit cigarette and in the other an open book," my acquaintance Zaur told me. "Every 15 minutes his relatives gave him a new cigarette. The ventilator was working to turn the pages for him. Gives you goosebumps. And what about the ones who made mausoleums in their yards? Their son died in an automobile accident as a young man. And so his parents embalmed him and brought the mummy breakfast, lunch and dinner for 40 years."


I was covered in a thin cold sweat. "Be quiet! You're not normal!"


"Ahh, you don't get it! All our policies revolve around the dead!" Nadir explained. "We believe that if we don't fulfil their last will, they will get us from the other world. You think 3,000 of our young men died just like that for nothing? Their last will was Abkhazia's independence. There cannot be any negotiations. No state will hold ground if it goes against their will! In Abkhazia there are regions where the dead are buried at home. Go ahead and try to sell or take away these homes. The families living there would die for them."


Old and New Rules


"Each May Georgia kicks the resort season off with a new threat of war. But this year is special," said State Deputy and Hero of Abkhazia Batal Kobakhiya. "After Kosovo's recognition, the rules have changed. The tender for recognizing Abkhazia's independence has been declared and powerful players are participating — Russia and the U.S. The West is rebuking us saying that we are Russia's satellite state. But we don't deny this. When we were forced into a corner, Russia opened its window to us. Should we have refused such aid only for Georgia's sake? Today, after removing economic sanctions, Russia has already opened a window. Now it might open the door. But Russia is very scrupulous. It wants to honor international regulations so no one can say Russia is conducting itself in the Caucasus like a bull in a china shop."


"After Kosovo, Georgian authorities attempted to use scare tactics by openly threatening Abkhazia with force," said Foreign Minister Sergey Shamba. "Burdzhanidze's statement can still been seen on the Web that Georgia will fight Russia if Abkhazia's independence is recognized. They thought they'd scare us, but their comments had the reverse effect. Russia's leaders slammed their fists on the table and they sent more troops to Abkhazia. Saakashvilli was singing a whole other tune when he spoke in Batumi May 8. He said that the Georgian Army isn't capable of fighting, NATO wouldn't help, Russia is our closest ally... That's the audience. Russia only needs to slam its fist."


"After the war, Georgia signed an agreement which it currently disputes. The Georgians were weak and afraid we'd take Tbilisi," Shamba continued. "Why did Shevardnadze say: 'Standing on my knees, I'm asking that we be taken into the CIS'? Because he needed strength to stop us. And then Moscow sent its Marines to Poti to stop our attack on Tbilisi. And now the Georgians have a revanchist air about them. They sent troops to the Korosk Gorge, built a patriotic camp along our borders, spent millions of dollars on arms. Listen, why do they need so many weapons? What's happening with Georgia is a natural process. Human history is a constant shifting of borders. We witnessed the fall of the Russian Empire. And Georgia's current form was artificially created by Stalin."


After Kosovo's independence was recognized, highbrow officials such as Deputy Aid to the U.S. Secretary of State Matthew Bryza and the U.S. ambassador to Georgia visited Sukhum.


"They came to feel us out and see what we're made of," said Presidential Advisor Nadir Bitiev. "For them we're the same old FSB agents, only darker and we speak Russian with a strange accent."


"At a closed meeting 1.5 years ago, the Georgians told Bryza that peaceful means weren't solving the Abkhazia question and only military force would work," said Deputy Defense Minister Gary Kupalba. "Bryza said: 'If the situation is solved quickly, within 2-3 days, the international community won't have the time to come to their senses. But if the ordeal lasts several weeks, we won't support you.' And so Georgia was brushed off by the U.S. The Abkhazia issue cannot be solved in three days."


"The U.S. declared its interest in the South Caucasus and is inching toward the North Caucasus," he continued. "Russia also wants to have influence in the South Caucasus and prevent Georgia from joining NATO. Georgia has unanimously left its sphere of influence and Russia must reconcile with this fact. So Russia needs to use what it has — little Abkhazia. If Russia loses Abkhazia, then tomorrow NATO will be just outside Sochi. The West has hinted that if the mediators change, Russian forces leave Abkhazia and NATO peacekeepers arrive they'd examine our membership in various international organizations."


"I met with the messengers Matthew Bryza and the U.S. ambassador," said Bagapsh. "We are ready to proceed with negotiations with Georgia under one condition — that Georgian forces are withdrawn from the Kodor Gorge. Abkhazia's status is not under consideration. We will never again be a part of Georgia. And the Kodor Gorge belongs to Abkhazia. Georgians are increasing their forces, but they shouldn't be disillusioned into thinking we're sitting here idly.


"When Saakashvilli said that the drones flied, fly and will fly above Abkhazia," Bagapsh continued, "we answered: 'We shot the drone down and we will continue to do so.' I requested the contingent of the Russian Army to increase their troops. It was our initiative. Abkhazia is home to many Russian citizens. In terms of the Russian passports. In 1998, I met with Shevardnadze and spoke about this issue. Let's solve the problem about UN documents for Abkhazians. He wasn't interested. So I told him in four years 90 percent of Abkhazians would have Russian passports. Shevardnadze didn't believe me. But we started this procedure and we've been successful. The West speculates that Russia wants to annex Abkhazia. But this is absurd. Under law Russia cannot attach another nation to itself. Putin and I spoke about this. It is in Russia's interest to have an independent friendly state and free economic zone on its border. Abkhazia can become an original duty-free. Every large state rests near a smaller state. It is normal. If the U.S. has a remote zone of interest such as Georgia or the Kyrgyz Republic, why can't Russia can't observe its interests on its own border?! We are a buffer between possible NATO bases in Georgia and Russia.


"In Georgia," Bagapsh said, "my photograph is hanging at shooting ranges instead of a target. This isn't a joke, it's an ideology. Believe you me, politicians talk elegantly about war until they start firing. Everything is NATO in Georgia right now — jeeps, food, uniforms. But when they start carrying coffins it won't matter what uniforms the dead are wearing — NATO or not. All men die the same regardless of uniform."


06.11.2008  Komsomolskaya Pravda


 Georgia-Abkhazia direct dialog must start without preconditions – Tbilisi


Tbilisi, The direct dialog between Georgia and Abkhazia on the peaceful settlement of the Abkhaz conflict must start without preconditions, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said on Tuesday.


“The resumption of the direct dialog between Georgian and Abkhaz sides is necessary for the full-scale and peaceful settlement of the conflict for the sake of the future of the two fraternal peoples and with due account of their interests,” the ministry said. “This conflict must be resolved through common efforts of the Abkhaz and Georgian peoples with the firm support of the international community.”


“The escalated tensions in the Abkhaz conflict zone, which were caused by the latest actions of Russia, endangered peace and stability of the region and Europe at large,” the ministry said. “The international community has perfectly understood this fact, which is proven by the recent Abkhaz visits of EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy Javier Solana, U.S. Assistant Deputy Secretary of State Matthew Bryza, the British Foreign Office’s Special Representative for the South Caucasus Brian Fall and EU ambassadors accredited in Tbilisi.”


“The main goal of those visits was the resumption of the Georgian-Abkhaz direct dialog without preconditions,” the ministry said.


Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh told Solana in Sukhum on June 6 that they conditioned the resumption of the direct dialog with Tbilisi on the withdrawal of Georgian armed units from the upper part of the Kodor Gorge.


“Once that is done, Abkhazia will be ready to resume the negotiations,” he said.


The upper part of the Kodor Gorge is the only area of Abkhazia controlled by Tbilisi after the armed conflict of 1992-1993. About 3,000 ethnic Georgians live in Upper Kodor. Georgia sent police units to that area in July 2006 “in order to ensure law and order and disarm the illegal unit of former Georgian presidential representative to the gorge, Emzar Kvitsiani [who held the position in 1998-2003].” Abkhazia said that the deployment of Georgian forces in the Kodor Gorge breached the 1994 Agreement.


Tbilisi is ready for a constructive dialog with Russia and the administration of the republic of Abkhazia for the sake of the peaceful settlement of the Abkhaz conflict within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia, Georgian Vice-Premier and State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Georgy Baramidze said on June 6.


He stressed that Georgia did not breach any agreements concerning the Abkhaz settlement process.


“We do not accept the ultimatums given by the separatists and we will not ask them for permission to keep Georgian Interior Ministry units in the Kodor Gorge. First of all, that’s Georgian territory. Secondly, Georgia does not breach any accords,” he said.


The European Union will take a more active part in the Abkhaz settlement process within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia, Solana said upon his return from Sukhum.


He said the EU was unable to resolve every problem but it was still a step forward. The settlement process develops in the right direction, Solana said.


06.10.2008  Itar-Tass


 Georgia-Abkhazia peace talks depend on Tbilisi says Russia


Moscow, The Russian Foreign Ministry said on Monday that the resumption of Georgia-Abkhazia peace talks, suspended two years ago after Tbilisi deployed troops close to Abkhazia's border, depends on Georgia.


Peace talks between Abkhazia and Georgia broke off in July 2006 when Tbilisi sent troops into Abkhazia's Kodor Gorge and established an alternative Abkhaz administration there.


"It would be naive to expect one of the parties to return to the negotiation table until the other proves its commitment to the earlier-reached agreement," the ministry said in an official statement.


The Russian Foreign Ministry has also hailed efforts by the U.S. and the European Union to take part in the Georgian-Abkhaz peace settlement, saying the approach taken by the West was "absolutely justified."


Last week, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana traveled to Sukhum, the capital of Abkhazia, for discussions with the Abkhazian president on the resumption of peace talks with Tbilisi.


At a meeting with Solana, the president of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh said there would be no peace talks with Tbilisi until all Georgian troops were withdrawn from the upper part of Abkhazia's Kodor Gorge and Georgia formally pledged not to resume hostilities.


Commenting on Bagapsh's statement, the Russian ministry said: "We fully back such a stance," going on to add that if a decision to withdraw Georgian troops was taken in Tbilisi then, "a de-escalation of tensions, a strengthening of stability, and the prospective settlement of the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict would become a reality."


06.09.2008  RIA Novosti


 Georgia says troops will stay in Abkhazia's Kodor Gorge


Tbilisi, Georgia will not meet Abkhazian demands to withdraw its troops from a disputed region on the border with Abkhazia, a Georgian state minister said on Friday.


Speaking during a meeting with EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, in the Abkhazia capital of Sukhum on Friday, the president of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh said there would be no peace talks with Tbilisi until all Georgian troops were withdrawn from the upper part of Abkhazia's Kodor Gorge and Georgia formally pledged not to resume hostilities.


"We will not accept ultimatums from separatists," Georgia's State Minister for Euro-Atlantic Integration Giorgi Baramidze said. "Georgian troops will stay where they are supposed to stay - in Georgian territory."


Peace talks between Abkhazia and Georgia broke off in July 2006 when Tbilisi sent troops into Abkhazia's Kodor Gorge and established an alternative Abkhaz administration there.


Speaking about the second part of the Abkhazian ultimatum, Baramidze said Georgia would sign an agreement with Abkhazia not to resume hostilities only if the EU rather than Russia acted as the guarantor of such an agreement.


A collective CIS peacekeeping force, staffed mainly with Russian military personnel, has been deployed in the Georgian-Abkhaz conflict zone since the end of Georgian-Abkhazian hostilities.


Georgia recently said Russia's current peacekeeping mission in the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict zone was no longer neutral and it should be replaced by a EU peacekeeping contingent.


06.06.2008  RIA Novosti


 Abkhazia sets forth conditions for resuming talks with Georgia


Sukhum, Abkhazia sets forth conditions for resuming talks with Georgia, president of the republic of Abkhazia Sergei Bagapsh said on Thursday on the eve of EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP) Javier Solana’s visit to Sukhum.


Bagapsh told Itar-Tass, “We don’t intend to change our position on the resumption of the talks even if the top EU official arrives in Abkhazia. We state once again that the major condition for resuming the negotiations is to withdraw all Georgian units from the upper part of the Kodor gorge, bringing the situation in line with the Moscow agreement on ceasefire and the separation of forces of May 14, 1994 and signing an agreement with Georgia not to resume military actions.”


In compliance with the Moscow agreement, the gorge’s territory is a demilitarised zone.


Solana intends to visit Sukhum on June 6 to study the situation in the republic and discus possibilities of resuming the Georgian-Abkhazian talks, which were interrupted in 2006 due to the deployment of Georgian military units in the upper part of the Kodor gorge.


Abkhazian presidential spokesman Alkhas Cholokua told Itar-Tass that Solana was expected to meet Sergei Bagapsh. The meeting will also involve Vice-President Raul Hajimba, speaker Nugzar Ashuba, Prime Minister Alexander Ankuab, Security Council secretary Stanislav Lakoba and Deputy Foreign Minister Maxim Gunjia.


Bagapsh told journalists, “There is no alternative to Russian peacekeepers. The question of changing Russian troops by any other forces has not been raised.” “Russian peacekeepers carried out their mission honestly and if Georgia wants to withdraw them from its territory Abkhazia will do its best Russian peacekeepers to continue staying on their territory,” the Abkhazian president stressed.


On May 30, fifteen EU ambassadors visited Abkhazia. The head of the delegation, French Ambassador in Georgia Eric Fournier, said, “The European Union is ready to be a mediator between Abkhazia and Georgia and maintain contacts with the sides in order to bring them together.”


Bagapsh proposed to deploy international monitoring forces and CIS Collective Peacekeeping Force in the upper part of the Kodor gorge in order to stabilise and control the situation in the region. According to the Abkhazian side, “only these measures will be able to diffuse the situation and lay the ground for resuming the negotiations.”


However, Georgia rivets much attention to a visit by Solana who arrived in Tbilisi on Thursday.


Deputy Foreign Minister Grigol Vashadze told journalists: “In light of the situation in Georgia Solana’s visit has an important significance.” “This visit is a message from the EU saying it is time Georgia and Abkhazia to resume talks without any third side and to begin serious discussions on the initiatives on the peaceful settlement of the conflict that the president of Georgia presented in April.”


While in Tbilisi, Solana is expected to have a meeting with Georgian Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze. Then he will also meet head of the U.N. Observer Mission Jean Arnault and French Ambassador in Georgia Eric Fournier who lead the delegation of 15 EU ambassadors that visited Sukhum last week.


In the evening Solana will have talks with Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili in Batumi. The EU policy chief will visit Sukhum on June 6.


Georgian Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili said Solana’s visit would give a signal to stepping up the peaceful settlement of the Georgian-Abkhazian conflict,


“Javier Solana has not visited Georgia for several years. The fact that he’s decided to arrive in Georgia just now gives a very serious signal to the EU to think of mechanisms to promote the peacekeeping process,” Tkeshelashvili said.


In her words, the Georgian authorities “will facilitate this process”.


Vice-Prime Minister and State Minister for European and Euro-Atlantic Integration Georgy Baramidze said Solana’s arrival in Georgia “proves of the EU solidarity with Georgia”. “This is a very important political gesture and a step towards stepping up the peaceful settlement of the conflict,” he said.


Georgian parliamentarians said Solana will visit Tbilisi and Sukhum on June 5-6 for talks the peaceful settlement of the Abkhazian conflict within Georgia’s internationally recognised borders.


They noted that the European Union “is very interested in settling the Abkhazian conflict by peaceful means that is why Solana’s arrival will be important to step up this process”. In their words, “earlier, the EU said it was ready to take an active part in the peaceful settlement of the Abkhazian conflict and in the peacekeeping operation on the U.N. consent.”


06.05.2008  Itar-Tass


 EU foreign policy chief to pay official visit to Georgia


Tbilisi, EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana will arrive in the Georgian capital Tbilisi on Thursday before heading for Abkhazia the day after, Georgia's Foreign Ministry said.


During the two-day visit, Solana is to meet with President Mikheil Saakashvili and Prime Minister Lado Gurgenidze in the Black Sea resort of Batumi, and then travel to Sukhum on June 6 to hold talks with Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh.


Prior to the visit, Solana told the European Parliament in Brussels on Wednesday that he hopes the EU could make a "constructive contribution" in brokering talks between Georgia and Abkhazia.


Russia announced at the weekend that it had deployed railroad troops to Abkhazia to help repair track in Abkhazia, a move that prompted Tbilisi to accuse Moscow of preparing for military action.


EU external relations commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner said on Wednesday Russia's actions "might threaten to undermine stability" in the region. Tbilisi views Solana's visit as confirmation of EU support for Georgia.


In April, Russia's then president Vladimir Putin called for closer ties with Abkhazia and South Ossetia provoking fury from Tbilisi, which accused Moscow of trying to annex the regions.


The long-running row over Abkhazia and South Ossetia along with Tbilisi's plans to join NATO have been major factors behind the dispute.


06.05.2008  RIA Novosti


 Moscow questions Georgia plan to raise Abkhazia drone downing at OSCE


Moscow, Russia has questioned Georgian intentions to raise the issue of Moscow's possible involvement in the shooting down of a reconnaissance drone over Abkhazia in April at the OSCE, the Russian Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday.


It said on May 28 Georgia's permanent envoy to the OSCE had sent a note to the Russian envoy alleging Moscow's involvement in the shooting down of an unmanned surveillance plane in Abkhaz airspace.


"The April 20 incident is a subject of bilateral relations between the conflicting sides of Georgia and Abkhazia. Therefore, the issue should be discussed with Sukhum [the capital of Abkhazia]," the ministry said.


A UN report on Monday said a Georgian drone was shot down by a Russian aircraft over Abkhazia on April 20. Moscow, which denies the allegation, dismissed the report as based on unreliable evidence.


The UN also criticized Georgia for carrying out reconnaissance flights over Abkhazia in breach of the terms of a ceasefire deal that ended Georgian-Abkhazian hostilities in the early 1990s.


Abkhazia claims it has downed seven Georgian drones this year.


The republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia have remained a source of tensions between Moscow and Tbilisi. Tensions have also been fueled by Georgian plans to join NATO. Georgia is located on key strategic routes for Caspian oil and gas supplies.


06.04.2008  RIA Novosti


 Russia’s Foreign Minister Rebuffed Georgia’s Claims

The purely humanitarian nature of moving the RF railway troops to Abkhazia has been reiterated by authorities of Russia and Abkhazia; the special emphasis has been laid on the absence of weapons at disposal of military builders, the RF Foreign Ministry announced via a statement.


According to Russia’s diplomats, the units of railway troops have been ordered to station in Abkhazia to rebuild the railway of Sukhum-Ochamchira section. The task will take from two to four months overall.


The decision to restore railway infrastructure in Abkhazia is in line with agreements of Russia and Georgia, the RF Foreign Ministry pointed out. The respective negotiations were set into motion after the presidents of Russia and Georgia met in Sochi in March of 2003. A special working team was set up by results of those talks to focus on reviving a through railway link via Abkhazia.


“It is evident that rebuilding carried out by Russia’s military builders not simply meets expectation of Abkhazia’s people... It would also serve the interest of all Caucasus region, including, of course, Georgia,” the RF Foreign Ministry said in the statement, calling on Georgia to pass on from “the senseless incantation about the threat of annexation and intervention” to some practical steps.


06.03.2008 Kommersant


 EU ambassadors favour renewal of Georgia-Abkhazia dialogue as soon as possible


Sukhum, A delegation of the European Union, which has visited Sukhum and met with the leadership of the Republic of Abkhazia, has come out in favour of the resumption as soon as possible of the Georgian-Abkhazian dialogue, French Ambassador to Georgia Eric Fournier told reporters on Sunday.


The ambassador made a statement on behalf of all 15 countries members of the European Union. He said it was the first time when all EU ambassadors visited the zone of the Abkhazian conflict with the assistance of the mission of U.N. observers and familiarized themselves with the situation there.


He said the ambassadors had firmly fixed in Sukhum the EU stance on a need to renew as soon as possible direct dialogue between Georgia and Abkhazia without any preliminary conditions.


The ambassadors met with Abkhazian President Sergei Bagapsh, Prime Minister Alexander Ankuab, Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba, as well as with representatives of nongovernmental organizations. The delegation also visited Gagra (northern part of Abkhazia) as well as the Gal region (southern Abkhazia), where it familiarized itself with the work of the mission of U.N. military observers in the zone of the conflict.


The visit was made within the framework of preparations for a trip to Georgia of EU foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana, due to be made on June 5-6.


As Georgian parliamentarians said, in Tbilisi and Sukhum Solana will discuss issues of peaceful settlement of the Abkhazian conflict within the internationally recognized borders of Georgia.


06.01.2008  Itar-Tass