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Georgia: UN Urges Georgia, Abkhazia Back To Talks

United Nations, 29 October 2001 (RFE/RL) -- UN Secretary-Geneal Kofi Annan has urged the Georgian and Abkhaz sides to return to political talks to defuse an increasingly tense situation in border regions. A new report from Annan to the UN Security Council, released today, said the absence of meaningful talks between the two sides places the whole Georgian-Abkhaz peace process in jeopardy.

The report says the shooting down of a helicopter carrying unarmed UN military staff over Abkhazia earlier this month was an "outrage." A technical investigation committee is seeking to find the side responsible for the incident, in which nine people were killed.

Annan's report also calls on Georgian authorities to restrain the activities of irregular armed groups operating in areas under its control. The United Nations blames attacks by these groups on Abkhaz positions earlier this month for destabilizing the conflict zone, especially in the Kodori gorge.

Earlier today, Georgia's President Eduard Shevardnadze said his country has protested to Russia over an air raid yesterday in a portion of the breakaway republic of Abkhazia controlled by Georgian forces. Shevardnadze said in Tbilisi that it was the third protest made by Georgia to Russia in the past month.

Shevardnadze said there is no justification for such raids, adding that the incidents show "the difference between the words of President Vladimir Putin and the actions" of the Russian military.

An unnamed spokesman for the Russian military command in the North Caucasus has denied that any Russian forces were involved in the incident.

Georgia yesterday said that four attack jets and six helicopters bombed targets in the Marukhski hills of the Kodori gorge.

Abkhazia claimed de facto independence from Georgia in 1993 after a war in which Moscow supported the separatists. Some 250,000 Georgians fled the region at the time.