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Georgia: Abkhaz Separatist Leader Sees Important Progress Toward Peace

Tbilisi, 15 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - Abkhaz separatist leader Vladislav Ardzinba has called his talks with Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze important, fruitful and constructive. The two men concluded negotiations today in the Gergian capital Tbilisi with the signing of a joint statement that pledges to resolve their differences without the use of force.

The two leaders, however, did not report a breakthrough on an overall political agreement that would end the conflict, which claimed 10,000 lives in 1992-93 ethnic fighting.

The joint statement signed by Shevardnadze and Ardzinba said both sides will refrain from using arms to resolve differences between them. But the document said that while they managed to resolve key problems, there are still "significant differences" in settling the conflict.

Ardzinba's visit was his first to the Georgian capital since the war began five years ago when Georgian government troops marched into Abkhazia on the Black Sea to put down moves towards independence.

Russian Foreign Minister Yevgeny Primakov, who accompanied the Abkhaz separatist leader and acted as a mediator during the talks said he hoped contacts would continue and bring fruitful results.

Abkhazia considers itself an independent state, while Georgia insists that it remains Georgian territory.