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Saakashvili Urges UN Pressure To End Abkhaz Conflict

United Nations, 26 February 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili today appealed to the UN Security Council to use pressure to bring about a political solution to the conflict with the breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Saakashvili told the council during a visit to UN headquarters in New York that he is ready to guarantee the highest degree of autonomy to Abkhazia within Georgia. But he said the council must, if necessary, use pressure to bring Abkhaz separatist leaders to the negotiating table.

"This conflict has gone on for too long. For too long we have sat around the table trading accusations and threats instead of sharing ideas and proposals that would lead to a lasting solution," Saakashvili said.

The Georgian president also urged the council to help end the Russian practice of granting citizenship to Abkhaz residents and permitting visa-free travel for them.

Saakashvili said he was encouraged by his meeting two weeks ago in Moscow with Russian President Vladimir Putin and believes a new chapter in Russian-Georgian relations is possible. But he said Putin will have to apply a new degree of political will and leadership to help improve relations and advance the peace process in Abkhazia.