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Senior Georgian Official on Talks with Rice

It will be impossible to resolve the Abkhaz conflict without removing the Russian-led peacekeeping operation there, Alexandre Lomaia, the secretary of the Georgian National Security Council (NSC), said on July 10.

He said the issue had been among the topics discussed at a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and President Saakashvili in Tbilisi on July 10.

Lomaia was himself at the meeting. Other Georgian officials in attendance include: Parliamentary Chairman Davit Bakradze, Foreign Minister Eka Tkeshelashvili and her deputy Giga Bokeria, Georgia’s UN Envoy Irakli Alasania and Georgia’s ambassador to the United States Davit Sikharulidze.

“Without a withdrawal of the peacekeepers it is unimaginable that the conflict will be settled and the refugees returned; it is unimaginable that there will be a de-escalation in the region – this was the main issue discussed,” Lomaia told reporters after the meeting. “We hope that these consultations will continue intensively. We know from the secretary of state that she plans to personally discuss this issue with top Russian officials and European colleagues.”

The U.S. Department of State said on July 7 that there was “an urgent need” for an international police presence in breakaway Abkhazia. Sokhumi and Moscow, however, are strongly against any change in the current Russian-led peacekeeping operation in the region.

“The withdrawal of Russian peacekeeping forces from the region and their replacement by a civilian police force is the cornerstone,” Lomaia said.

State Minister for Reintegration Temur Iakobashvili also said after the meeting that the current peacekeeping format needed to be replaced as it was “inefficient and didn’t work.”

“I hope – and this issue was raised – that after Condoleezza Rice’s visit, the peace process may really start,” Iakobashvili told journalists. 


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