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Analysis: Will Abkhazia, Georgia Resume Talks?

Sergei Bagapsh says no deal has been agreed (ITAR-TASS) On May 19, the Russian daily "Kommersant" reported that the governments of Georgia and the unrecognized republic of Abkhazia have reached agreement on the main points of a plan to resolve the conflict between them, for which de facto Abkhaz President Sergei Bagapsh would seek Russia's approval. But Bagapsh denied on his arrival in Moscow later on May 19 that any tentative agreements have been reached with the Georgian side, reported.

Two months earlier, in mid-March, "Kommersant" similarly reported that a tentative agreement had been hammered out on resolving the Transdniester conflict, and then on April 11, Moldovan President Vladimir Voronin and Transdniester leader Igor Smirnov met for the first time since 2001 to discuss arrangements for resuming talks on such a settlement.

According to "Kommersant," the draft peace plan was presented to the Abkhaz leadership on May 12 during a visit to Sukhum(i) by Georgia's ambassador to the UN, Irakli Alasania. The first step is reportedly the signing of a formal pact abjuring the use of force, which Georgia has previously consistently rejected.

But "Kommersant" noted that President Mikheil Saakashvili assured Russian journalists in Batumi on May 6 that he "would sign such an agreement tomorrow, provided there will be firm guarantees that Georgian displaced persons can return" to Abkhazia. Saakashvili reportedly added that Tbilisi is also ready to provide "any security guarantees" the Abkhaz leadership wants, including the withdrawal from the Kodori Gorge of the Georgian Interior Ministry forces deployed there in August 2006.

The Abkhaz have consistently pegged a resumption of talks to the withdrawal of those troops, whose presence in Kodori the Abkhaz claim contravenes the May 1994 UN-mediated cease-fire agreement between Abkhazia and Georgia. "Kommersant" reported that in acknowledgement of the Georgian renunciation of military force, the Abkhaz would in turn pledge not to prevent the return of Georgian displaced persons.

As indicated above, however, Bagapsh denied on May 19 that any agreement with Georgia has been reached. Abkhaz Foreign Minister Sergei Shamba similarly told RosBalt on May 21 that the talks with Alasania focused exclusively on security issues and the Kodori Gorge. Bagapsh met in Moscow on May 20 with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss how to defuse the tensions in Abkhaz-Georgian relations in line with recommendations contained in the most recent UN Security Council resolution, Interfax reported on May 20.

That resolution, adopted on April 15, stresses the need to observe the 1994 cease-fire, and to "finalize without delay the document on the non-use of violence"; reaffirms the right of all displaced persons to return to Abkhazia; calls on both sides to increase bilateral contacts; and advocates taking as a basis for talks on resolving the conflict not just the UN-drafted "Basic Principles for the Distribution of Competencies between Tbilisi and Sukhumi," which the Abkhaz have rejected, but also "additional ideas that the sides would be willing to offer."

Addressing the Russian State Duma's Committee for CIS Affairs and Compatriots Abroad on May 20, Lavrov again called on Georgia to sign the proposed nonaggression pact "without any preconditions," reported.

But Georgia's ambassador to Moscow, Erosi Kitsmarishvili, told a press conference on May 20 that Georgia will not embark on any talks with Abkhazia until Russia rescinds then-President Vladimir Putin's April directive calling on Russian government bodies to intensify economic and other contacts with the unrecognized republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, according to RBK as reposted on May 21 by

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