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Georgia: President Says New Approach Needed On Abkhaz Conflict

Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili (AFP) UNITED NATIONS -- On his second day of an official visit to the United States, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili met in New York with UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. Among the topics they discussed were the consequences of Kosovo's declaration of independence, settlement issues for internally displaced people in Georgia's breakaway region of Abkhazia, and the UN Observer Mission in Georgia. Saakashvili spoke to RFE/RL correspondent Nikola Krastev after the conclusion of his meeting.

RFE/RL: How do you see the role of the UN in solving Georgia's problems?

Mikheil Saakashvili: The United Nations should be involved in good services and mediation. In the next few days, we are ready to come up with new initiatives on solving the situation in Abkhazia, and we believe that we can give new incentives from our side in order to restart the dialogue and get to some sensible steps.

On the other hand, the present format is outdated, obsolete, especially with regard to the CIS [agreement on settling the conflict in Abkhazia, Georgia from 1996] and we've spoken about it [with UN Secretary-General Ban] for a long time.

And one thing should be said: that Russia, by stepping out from the CIS sanctions [on March 6], basically changed the whole format, changed the rules of the game on the ground, and basically faced us with new realities, and we have to adjust to these new realities, including the UN.

RFE/RL: What new initiatives do you intend to present for the conflict's resolution?

Saakashvili: We have a set of new proposals [for] the de facto government in Sukhumi in order to facilitate the restart of dialogue and basically give them additional perspectives of what they might expect in terms of peaceful resolution and their future place in [a] united Georgia.

RFE/RL: Do you see Russia as an enemy or as a friend?

Saakashvili: We see Russia as a partner, we see Russia as a country of great opportunity, and certainly as a country with friendly potential, with tremendous positive potential in this region [Caucasus]. First of all, I believe there are a lot of outstanding issues and we need to sit down with the new leadership of Russia and try to start what I've always offered to start -- from [a] clean slate and try to be innovative.

Because right now, this is not leading anywhere special for Georgia. Georgia is a small country and the last thing we need is any kind of confrontational regime with Russia. It's having [a] tremendous negative toll on our situation and on everything that's connected with Georgia's development. It is certainly one thing we should face, which is improved relations with Russia.

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