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Georgia: Russian Negotiator Sees Progress On Abkhazia

Tbilisi, 3 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A top Russian negotiator today reported progress in the latest talks on a peace settlement between Georgia and its breakaway region of Abkhazia.

Boris Berezovsky, deputy head of Russia's Security Council, told reporters in Tbilisi that progress amounted to what he called a better understanding on both sides of the essence of the problem.

Berezovsky, who carried out a three-day shuttle diplomacy between Tbilisi and Abkhazia, said negotiations would continue. But he did not say when nor where. Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze, speaking alongside Berezovsky, praised his mediation efforts but declined to be more specific about the talks.

Some 200,000 refugees left Abkhazia after separatists drove out Georgian troops in 1993. Russia currently has about 15,000 peacekeepers in the region whose mandate expires at the end of this month. Georgia wants the peacekeepers to help the return of the refugees -- or leave altogether. Abkhaz separatist authorities reject a broadening of their mandate.