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Georgia: British Minister To Discuss Abkhazia

  • Stuart Parrott

London, 13 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook is expected to ask Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagharishvili about the situation in the breakaway Black Sea province of Abkhazia when they hold talks today.

Menagharishvili is in Britain for a four-day official visit which includes meetings with ministers, officials, parliamentarians and business people.

A British Foreign Office spokesman said yesterday it is the first time the two have met and will be an opportunity to get to know each other.

Sources in London told our correspondent that Britain "is very interested in an exchange of views on Abkhazia," the scene of a long-running conflict between Georgian authorities and separatists.

The sources said: "Georgia's position as a potential exit route for Caspian oil is something in which many people including Britain have an interest and much depends on the resolution of the Abkhazia problem."

A major oil pipeline runs across Azerbaijan and Georgia to the Black Sea from the Caspian port city of Baku. British Petroleum holds the biggest share in the largest consortium developing the Caspian oilfields.

One of the highlights of Menagharishvili's visit will came yesterday when he and his wife met Britain's Queen Elizabeth at a memorial concert for Diana, Princess of Wales, who was killed in a car crash in Paris some weeks ago.

Menagharishvili also attended Prime Minister's Question Time in the House of Commons (lower house of parliament) to see Labour Party leader Tony Blair answer questions from parliamentarians.

Earlier, he had talks with Defence Secretary George Robertson but the agenda is still not known. He also met with the British-Georgia All-Party Parliamentary Group which fosters links with the Caucasus country.

Today, he will sign an agreement with British Roads Minister Baroness Hayman to ease transport links between the two countries.

A Transport Department spokeswoman said the agreement "will help to open up trade links by reducing bureaucracy for road freight companies."

He will also meet with the William O'Neil, secretary general of the London-based International Maritime Organisation.

He will then address the Royal Institute of International Affairs on the theme: "The Georgian View of the Caucasus Region."

In the afternoon he will have talks with International Development Secretary Clare Short, and visit the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, where he will meet with President Jacques de Larosiere.

Tomorrow he will have talks with London business people and financiers, followed by a meeting with Britain's Trade Minister Lord Clinton-Davis.

He will attend a reception hosted by the chairman of the Georgian Shipping Company (UK) Ltd, Bichiko Varshanidze.

Menagharishvili will leave Britain on Saturday.