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Abkhaz Leader Says Georgian Refugee Return 'Currently Impossible'

Sergei Shamba (file photo)

Sergei Shamba (file photo)

SUKHUMI -- The de facto prime minister of Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia says the return of Georgian refugees to Abkhazia is not possible in the current political circumstances, RFE/RL's Echo of the Caucasus reports.

Sergei Shamba told RFE/RL on September 2 that the key issue to be resolved to make it possible for Georgian refugees to return to Abkhazia was official recognition by Georgia of Abkhazia's independence.

He said that "without recognition of Abkhazia's independence," no further resolution of the return of ethnic Georgians to Abkhazia was possible.

"Those who wanted to return to Abkhazia have returned," Shamba said. "Those who want to return to Abkhazia but consider it a part of Georgia cannot return, and we cannot give them the same false promises given by the Georgian authorities."

Shamba added that as long as Georgia had territorial claims on Abkhazia, it was difficult to talk about establishing good-neighborly relations between Abkhazia and Georgia and solve the issue of the refugees' return to Abkhazia.

There were some 240,000 Georgians in Abkhazia in 1989, most of whom fled during the 1992-93 war when the pro-Moscow region broke away from Georgian control.

Abkhazia's independence has been recognized only by Russia, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and the Pacific island state of Nauru.

Georgia's other breakaway region of South Ossetia and Moldova's breakaway Transdniester region recognized Abkhazia as an independent state in 2006.

After the Russian-Georgian war in South Ossetia in August 2008, the Georgian parliament passed a resolution declaring Abkhazia and South Ossetia "territories occupied by Russia."