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Abkhaz Leader Says German Plan Unacceptable

Proposals laid out by German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier are unacceptable for the Abkhaz side, Russian news agencies quoted Abkhaz leader Sergey Bagapsh as saying after meeting the German official.

The meeting was held in Gali, instead of, as initially planned, Sokhumi. Reportedly, Steinmeier’s flight to Sokhumi was cancelled due to bad weather.

“These proposals are unacceptable for us,” Bagapsh said, according to Interfax news agency. “We told the German officials that talks are not possible without the withdrawal of Georgian troops from upper Kodori Gorge.”

“We have not changed our positions as a result of this meeting – neither Mr. Minister nor we,” Bagapsh told reporters after the meeting.

“We do not agree with the proposed plan in principle," Bagapsh said, according to RIA Novosti news agency. "We have proposed that the German foreign minister include in the document two points. The first one: the withdrawal of Georgian troops from upper Kodori Gorge; the second one: signing of a treaty on the non-use of force.”

“Insisting on the return of Georgian refugees to other parts of Abkhazia [apart from Gali] is just pointless before the conflict is resolved; it could trigger the resumption of conflict,” he added.

Bagapsh’s remarks echoed a statement made by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov on July 17.

The Abkhaz leader also said that status of Abkhazia could not be discussed at all. “Abkhazia is an independent state, and this is not open to discussion,” he said.

“Both sides’ positions are far from each other, and we need to create the conditions for a dialogue," Reuters quoted Steinmeier as saying after talks with Bagapsh.

The German foreign minister is set to meet Georgian officials again on July 18 in Batumi, before leaving for Moscow where he will hold talks with his Russian counterpart.

Interfax news agency reported quoting unnamed Russian diplomat that although the German Foreign Minister’s efforts to resume Abkhaz peace talks are “constructive,” focus should be made on treaty on non-use of force.

“Steinmeier’s activities are positive; but now the major issue is to achieve signing of a treaty on non-use of force between Georgia and Abkhazia in parallel to withdrawal of the Georgian troops from upper Kodori Gorge,” the Russian Foreign Ministry source was quoted.

Officials in Tbilisi are opposed to a treaty on the non-use of force without firm guarantees and a detailed timeframe and terms for IDP and refugee return, initially to Gali and Ochamchire districts of Abkhazia. President Saakashvili said on July 17 that Russia’s calls for the signing of the treaty were “an artificially created issue.”

Tbilisi also refuses to sign such a treaty on the grounds that Russian peacekeeping forces currently stationed in the Abkhaz conflict zone can not act as guarantors of any agreement. The German plan, reportedly, does not say a word about possible internationalization of the peacekeeping operation, which has become one of the reasons for Tbilisi’s cautious response to the proposed plan. The Georgian senior officials said after talks with the German Foreign Minister on July 17 in Tbilisi and that the plan needed “some corrections.”

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