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Georgia: British Officials Ask Minister About Abkhazia

London, 17 November 1997 (RFE/RL) -- Sources in London say British officials raised the subject of Abkhazia several times during the visit to London of Georgia's Foreign Minister.

Menagharishvili left last weekend after a four-day official visit and meetings with ministers, parliamentarians and financiers.

Our correspondent quotes the sources as saying that Doug Henderson, Britain's Minister for Europe whose responsibilities include the states of the former Soviet Union, asked about the situation in Georgia's Black Sea province of Abkhazia, scene of a long-running separatist dispute.

Before the talks British officials said Georgia's position as a potential exit route for Caspian Sea oil is something in which Britain has an interest, and much depends on resolution of the Abkhazia problem. The giant multinational, British Petroleum, is part of one of largest consortiums developing the oilfields.

Menagharishvili had dinner with British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, but the subject of Abkhazia did not come up in their informal talks, as earlier reported by officials. The two focused on economic and commercial issues.

In a speech to the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London, Menagharishvili said unresolved conflicts in the Caucasus are impeding further development of democracy in the region. He cited Abkhazia, Chechnya, Nagorno-Karabakh and South Ossetia.

He said the main issue for his government is to find a peaceful solution to the Abkhazia problem that upholds the principles of Georgia's territorial integrity within its internationally-recognized borders while meeting the interests of the people of Abkhazia.